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Comment: Re:Where are the online Computer Science degrees? (Score 1) 370

by Taxman415a (#46579193) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Fastest, Cheapest Path To a Bachelor's Degree?

This also brings me to self-taught computer scientists: I've begun an adventure down "Teach myself math from scratch" lane because, at age 40, I'm still rather annoyed at my math education in high school. I was more concerned about learning to the test, not the concepts, and that's haunted me ever since. Anyone have recommendations for learning math starting from, say, Algebra I or II level (high school) that will actually teach in a way that will be useful rather than taking a test? Stuff that will carry over into future classes as the proper building blocks, etc? Most complete college level open education resource I've seen. The math is pretty good, starts at algebra, and even has a bridge class "Introduction to Mathematical Reasoning" to help teach proofs and other necessary mathematical rigor to be able to tackle higher level math. You'll still need to do the work and focus on the concepts and make sure you understand, not just going for passing a test, but the fundamentals are there.

Comment: Re:Um, right. (Score 1) 278

by Taxman415a (#46552519) Attached to: Don't Help Your Kids With Their Homework
The Common Core standards in themselves are a vast improvement from the patchwork of state standards that ranged from bad to very bad. The Common Core standards do a decent job focusing the standards on fewer topics allowing for deeper more rigorous learning of the important topics and a focus on understanding, not just procedure. Previous standards tended to focus on facts, recall, and mindless procedural learning, rather than moving higher up the hierarchy of learning to where students can be creative and actually use what they learn. The quality of implementation of the Common Core standards will of course vary as they move into texts and standardized tests and are used by teachers.

Now to your specific example, that's a decent problem that requires thinking to solve. If Math MS and PhD's are having a hard time with it, then they are either so focused on their limited area that they can't do anything else or they are so used to being spoon fed procedural thinking by a professor that they don't know how to think for themselves. The problem you linked to was also cherry picked out without any context or explanation of the task that likely would have been in a good classroom. Without any context or explanation though, the task does require a higher level of thinking to parse what is being asked. Higher level cognitive demand is another way to say it.

The Common Core does not only call for open ended problems like that, and does also call for procedural fluency. Think drilling. The trick is in the balancing of procedure with problem solving abilities and stretching problem solving abilities requires giving tasks with higher level cognitive demand.

There's always going to be people like you that try to drag out the negative in any improvement effort without understanding the background behind it.

I'll have to go read the linked study to see what it's all about.

Comment: (Score 1) 197

by Taxman415a (#46451133) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Online, Free Equivalent To a CompSci BS?
The time advisory is actually new since I last looked at the materials. Previously I mostly evaluated the quality of the materials and completeness. In general though actual time requirements to complete the work are going to vary quite a bit by the amount of prior preparation a student has. The time guidelines given for individual assignments I spot checked just now appear to be in the ball park. The overall totals are likely to be off more, though possibly a reasonable starting point.

Comment: (Score 3, Informative) 197

by Taxman415a (#46440913) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Online, Free Equivalent To a CompSci BS?
Saylor has one of the most complete, free, college degree equivalents that I have seen. The best part is many degree programs have links to video lectures, full problem sets and exams.

Their math stuff is decent, and that's what I'm competent to evaluate, so based on that I'd think the compsci would be good too. Some degree areas are not complete yet, but compsci is.

Comment: Re:Level the playing field (Score 4, Insightful) 715

by Taxman415a (#45943467) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

THIS is the magic bullet that fixes things most of the time. I work in education, and we have both "rich schools" (that get less funding) and "poor schools" (which get more funding) in the same small community, and the results are always the same. It isn't about school funding, it is about parenting. Many lower educated people are lower income people, who don't value education, and this produces a cycle of poverty.

Yes same in the districts near me. The "poor schools" get as much as 1.5 times as much funding as the "rich schools". Admittedly because of the poverty issues from the students they serve they do have higher costs. There are higher incidences of untreated ADHD, behavioral disorders, hungry kids, violence, etc. But that doesn't change the point that you're right, it's about the parents.

I'd bet, that the #1 indicator of poverty is not poverty, but values instilled by parents. I look at the recent video of a three year old boy being disrespectful and using vulgar language, raised by a 16 year old mother and a grandmother who is a convicted felon and I think, "there is no way this is going to be good for the kid". However, I've been trained not to mention any of this because people who don't know me will cry "racism" (now you know the race).

It's pretty independent of race. I see examples similar to what you point out from a variety of races. Poverty doesn't care about race.

How can we have a discussion on poverty when people who see the problems are called names because it doesn't fit the politically correct theory of the day?

Very carefully and with more understanding of the causes of racial tension than you have displayed. It's fairly clear you are from a privileged race and don't have much understanding of what it would be like to not be. A good book for starters is Lisa Delpit's "Other People's Children". It'll make you mad and she beats the point home, but eventually it will sink in and you'll get a glimpse of how different it is to be part of the dominant race vs not. It subtly affects a large number of seemingly small things that you don't need to notice when you're on the dominant side of it.

Comment: Re:Test scores (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45943247) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?
Well when the stakes are as high as they are you can't just take the first graders result. You have to do various types of validation. A certain amount of overlapping grading and statistical validation. The first x amount of a grader's results have to be verified and at least a certain percentage thereafter. The way AP tests work as I recall is two people grade each answer then any significant differences go to a more experienced grader. So it's definitely higher than $4 per short answer, but I'm not sure what the exact number would be. It starts to add up to big numbers when large numbers of students take the tests. I do know the free response questions were removed from my state's standardized tests because the couple questions they did have cost tens of millions (could have been a hundred) of dollars in additional costs to grade versus running the scantron sheet through. The AP tests do it for a fee of something like $80 so it's not impossible, in fact, I agree it would be worth doing. If money were the only object, it would probably be better to do statistical sampling of students with a better test than the current flawed tests for all students.

Comment: Re:Test scores (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45941781) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

These are obstacles to overcome, not excuses to stop attempts at improvement. We absolutely need to update our testing procedures as part of a comprehensive attempt to improve quality standards in education.

Absolutely agreed. But the fact is they are being used as reasons to stop improvements.

There is no need to constrain ourselves to just multiple choice tests.

Well, except better tests cost more money to administer and score. A lot more. Simply adding one free response question to a standardized test increases the information about a student's knowledge and understanding by a lot, but increases the cost by a huge amount as well. It takes experienced graders and developed rubrics, training on those rubrics, etc. Politicians and policymakers like multiple choice because it's cheaper and gives the appearance of authoritative data.

Comment: Re:Test scores (Score 2) 715

by Taxman415a (#45940113) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

You would figure most people on Slashdot would have a good enough understanding of math and statistics to know that just because testing scores may not be perfect, there are plenty of practices that can make them very useful.

We can do pre-tests and post-tests so teachers aren't penalized for having students that were already poor performers. A teacher could be rated as outstanding even if his students are testing under the standards as long as their improvement was above expectations. The government has access to enough information to adjust test scores based on socio-economic factors. If 75% of a teacher's students are on food stamps, and the data shows students on food stamps generally underperform, then the performance metrics can take that into account.

Two things, this type of proper adjustment to look at the actual effect teachers have isn't always done well, and your underlying assumption is that the standardized test accurately measures what a student knows. From assessment theory and observation it is known that a single standardized test in purely multiple choice format cannot accurately measure what a student knows.

Given that though, the tests could have some usefulness. There are two problems though. The unions don't want them used at all because they have this fantasy that all teachers are wonderful and should be treated the same. They don't want anything used that would move towards a pay for performance system as that would undermine their power and worldview. The other problem is that systems like you mention are typically implemented blindly because that's easier and then it doesn't take into account the problems inherent in multiple choice test taking and the failure to adjust for the factors you mentioned or other that weren't considered. When those problems are ignored you have distortions where good teachers are either driven out or forced to teach poorly in order to conform to poorly thought out system.

Comment: Re:Good or Bad (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45939935) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?
Yeah that's the whole debate about tracking. For a long time everything used to be tracked and the result was that lower and middle performing students got lower quality teachers and had lower expectations placed on them than they could handle and were given less rigorous work than they were capable of. The solution is for teachers to use methods to differentiate their instruction so that high performing students get what they need and low performing students do as well. It's actually possible and the result is everyone learns more. It's more fun and actually more intellectually challenging as a teacher to teach this way as well. The top 1% or so of students require particular attention that the average teacher is not equipped to give, but that's the case whether students are tracked or not. A relatively small number of US states have any requirements that the top certain percent of students get any special education services. Not sure how the rest of the world handles it. So is this ideal as I've presented it really happening? Probably not that much. Older teachers haven't been trained in it, the methods are mixed up with reform methods that get some push back, teacher certification programs are far lower quality than they should be, and new teacher training is sporadic and of spotty quality. In addition the No Child left behind Act primarily provides incentives for lower performing students so that's where the attention goes. With improved teacher training, both before certification and especially after, good results can be had. As it is, to do it well, a teacher basically has to take it on themselves to learn and improve. We can all take a guess as to how often that happens.

Comment: Re:Yeah, like the present school system is working (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45939763) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

While I agree with some of your points, I'll take issue with this statement. In my opinion, the lack of parental participation and school/legislative policy have degenerated in a vicious cycle. Schools try to do more to help kids, while discouraging/preventing parental influence on school policy. As a result, parents are less involved, which leads the school to do more, etc.

If any schools are discouraging parental participation that is wrong and should be stopped. Parent support and participation is probably more influential to a child's success than anything the most talented teacher can do. While the school should be encouraging and supporting it, if they are not, the parents should demand to be heard.

As for "day long day care" - so true. Look no further than the push for 4k and Head Start, which have repeatedly and consistently failed to produce lasting benefits, while costing taxpayers *billions*. There's no educational justification for it.

Data on head start shows that overall, it is slightly better than a wash, but quality head start programs show long lasting educational, life, and community benefits for example through reduced crime long after the head start program. So the question is how to get all of them to be high quality. The educational establishment is only just beginning to really use real data driven methods to ensure high quality effective methods are identified and employed. That's sad it had not been done more before, but it is being done more now. Well actually the real question is how to get more parental support and involvement so that the school isn't expected to raise kids entirely while at the same time improving the effectiveness of the schools. The worlds most effective schools won't get great results without parents supporting their kids (if you don't believe me spend some time in both an inner city and a suburban school, preferably with a good teacher in an urban school), but the worlds most supportive parents will result in more effective schools, partly by demanding and getting improved schools, but partly because it's the foundation for a child having success.

Comment: Re:Level the playing field (Score 1) 715

by Taxman415a (#45939543) Attached to: How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

How much care towards education can a low-income single parent working two full time jobs provide?

What is the parent doesn't have a great education themselves and aren't able to help their child academically (and only motivationally)?

The amount they can help is less, but I'd take the motivational help if they'd give that. The majority of parents can't successfully help their children with school work by the time students reach high school anyway, but the parents that show their kids education is important and support their kid's learning do dramatically better. Even those single parents working two jobs. The real problem is people having children they aren't prepared to support properly. There's probably not much we can ethically do about that though.

Should that child suffer, not only because of that, but because of dwindling resources in the public school system that are being drained by the charter schools?

If they have less kids to teach, the resources aren't really dwindling. They have the same amount per student. If they want to retain more students they need to improve. There are plenty of options available to them including teacher training and union reform.

If charter schools are as great as they are made out to be - they should be VOLUNTEERING to take students who are struggling academically, not shunning them like lepers.

Agreed, they should have to take every student and have no ability to cherry pick. That's completely unfair to start with an unlevel playing field. The data from charter schools so far is that their results are even more variable than public schools. There are a few successes and several disasters. Those opposing charter schools on a philosophical or other basis will point out the failures and those promoting them will point out the successes. Overall though charter school results are pretty close but not better than public schools. I'd say that's actually the most damning fact. For all the things holding public schools back, charter schools shouldn't have that much trouble getting significantly better results, but they don't on average.

Comment: Re:For blind people (Score 1) 370

by Taxman415a (#45634075) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Easy Wi-Fi-Enabled Tablet For My Dad?
As far as tablets go, iOS is way ahead for accessibility because they put a lot of resources into it. There is some decent voice command with Siri, and the screen reader VoiceOver, speaks what is on the screen, reads text, web pages, etc. There is still a learning curve, but it makes things possible. There are braille displays for iOS devices too.

For Smart phones, last time I checked what my blind friends were using they said the best thing at the time was a specialized operating system and app for a Nokia phone and it worked really well. But they also said iOS was improving fast and that several years ago.

For dumbphones it's a lot easier, you can get fairly easy to use talking phones, check what the associations for the blind recommend now. Or check

For desktops and laptops I think Windows is still ahead a little because the software packages available for it, JAWS and WindowEyes are built for it and have been around a long time. The learning curve is so steep for them though that they said unless you needed windows, then apple with it's built in, free, screen reader was a cheaper and almost as good option and a lot of blind people do use it.

Comment: Re:Duh (Score 1) 462

by Taxman415a (#45624215) Attached to: U.S. Measles Cases Triple In 2013
There is basically no way around the fact that if you are refusing one of the required vaccines you are making a bad choice, for both your child (or you) and for society. All of the required vaccines are required based on evidence. If you have looked at the specific data and found it lacking, then you didn't understand what you were looking at, just as you are incorrect (by omission) about the ways that a person can acquire Hepatitis B.

If people could make stupid decisions based on incorrect understanding of information they didn't understand that affected only them that would be sad, but up to them. Doing it to their children is child neglect at best. Certainly no one that refuses the required vaccines should be allowed to place other people at risk such as by entering unvaccinated (by choice as opposed to medical necessity) childen into school.

Not sure why I'm responding to you though. If you've already showed a pattern of making incorrect decision based on information you don't understand, you're not likely to change.

Comment: Re:Not the biggest (Score 1) 57

by Taxman415a (#45031947) Attached to: Tour Houston's Texas-Sized Hackerspace (Video 1 of 2)
Yeah not the biggest, but they look like they are doing a good job and that's all that matters. Gotta love /. haters finding something to whine about (not you TwoStep, the people whining about other things). If you can't get excited about a place where geeks and people that want to make stuff can share equipment that few people can afford on their own, so they can make cool stuff, go read somewhere else.

The Geek Group also has 42,000 square feet, but it appears to be a work in progress.

Comment: Re:But why? (Score 1) 65

Something can be interesting, but still not worth the resources. For example, it may be interesting to grind away all of the earth's crust and send it into the sun, but that doesn't mean it's worth it. Everything has tradeoffs and the smarter thing to do is to think for a bit about those tradeoffs rather than knee jerk responding that it's interesting therefore it must be done, damn the cost. Maybe the same resources could be put to a more valuable and interesting use while 95% of the learning and interest value could be gotten out of this project without expending so many resources. Maybe not, but it's probably worth considering.

We are Microsoft. Unix is irrelevant. Openness is futile. Prepare to be assimilated.