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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fundraiser For Rock Hill Sports Reporter

Barry Byers, a Rock Hill native and long time sports reporter for The Rock Hill Herald, has been battling cancer. Friends are holding a fundraiser to help with his expenses. Details are below:
This is just a reminder that if you would like to help with the Barry Byers Fundraiser for medical bills by purchasing a boston butt, you need to  place the order by Sunday evening (July 1, 2012)  so the meat order can be placed with the processor.  Barry  has given so much to the student athletes of this community.   LET’S STEP UP and GET A GOOD BOSTON BUTT PORK ROAST.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mixon Raising Money To Feed Hungry Children!

Northwestern High School Student Sarah Mixon

A message from Northwestern High School Junior, Sarah Mixon: 

I am participating in Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale.  I have joined thousands of people in helping to make sure that no kid in America grows up hungry.  Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale allows me to make a difference by doing something I love, baking! 
Today, more than 16 million children go to bed hungry and to school without breakfast.  That’s one in five who are without regular nutritious meals and are unable to thrive in school.  Great American Bake Sale supports Share Our Strength, a national organization that works hard to surround kids with the food they need where they learn, live and play.  Share Our Strength helps close gaps between nutritious food programs and families in need.  They help develop lasting solutions for hungry families—the difference between feeding a family tonight and ensuring that they never again have to worry about their next meal.By simply hosting a bake sale, we can support Share Our Strength’s efforts and make a difference.    I have joined the fight against childhood hunger in America! I hope you will join my bake sale, Delicious Delights.  It will be held at The Cotton Factory on Friday, August 17, 2012, from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.  Many thanks to The Cotton Factory's Gary Williams for supporting this cause!

To join my bake sale, click the Join Team link on my bake sale webpage and complete the online registration.  To achieve bake sale success, there are a variety of jobs with which I will need volunteer help.  These include baking, publicity, running the actual bake sale, taking pictures at the sale, making monetary donations, and purchasing bake sale items at our bake sale.  I would really appreciate your help with the baking and/or buying, but if that is not a possibility, it is still possible to help.  You can donate money online, and that money will be added to the total amount collected from the bake sale.
If you would like to bake something for the sale, I would appreciate donations of cookies, cakes, breads, brownies, cupcakes, cake pops, and any other delicious delight!
If you have any friends, coworkers, or family members who may be interested in helping, please spread the word!  If you are willing to help out, please email me at and let me know how you'd like to help.
Together we can bake a difference!
Sarah Mixon
Join thousands of people who are dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Take the No Kid Hungry Pledge today at

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Measuring Teacher Performance

Some great comments on measuring Teacher performance from the Thoughts on Education Policy blog:

Is Teacher Quality Really Causing the Achievement Gap?

Yesterday, the NY Times released the value-added scores of thousands of teachers over the past five years.  Before and immediately after the release, people seemed to mostly argue the merit of the decision to release the data.  But I have a substantive question about the data.

What caught my eye was that, according to the NYT analysis of this particular set of scores, good teachers are evenly distributed between high-poverty and low-poverty schools.  From the article:

there was no relationship between a school’s demographics and its number of high- or low-performing teachers: 26 percent of math teachers serving the poorest of students had high scores, as did 27 percent of teachers of the wealthiest.

The LA Times reported a roughly a similar situation in LA when they released teachers' scores a couple years ago.  Which is really quite shocking in a number of ways.  Most notably, researchers and practitioners have long assumed that lower-poverty schools had worse teachers than higher-poverty schools -- past studies have repeatedly found that teachers in high-poverty schools are less experienced, turn over at a much higher rate, score lower on achievement tests, attend less selective colleges, etc.  Accordingly, at least part of the theory of action behind the teacher quality movement has been that giving low-income students teachers who are as good as or better than those in higher-income schools would significantly narrow the achievement gap.

But these two measures of teacher quality indicate there may be no major differences between low- and high-poverty schools, while we know that large gaps in achievement still exist between low-income and high-income students.  Which means at least one of two things.

1.) Differences in teacher quality are not a major driver of the achievement gap.

2.) These value-added scores are not a good measure of teacher quality.

I don't think anybody seriously doubts -- or at least that anybody serious doubts -- that some teachers are much better than others and that the best teachers can make a large difference.  But if quality teachers, according to these value-added measure, are roughly evenly distributed between high- and low-poverty schools in LA at the same time that we see differences between high- and low-income students growing, then  improving the quality of teachers (again,as indicated by these value-added measures) in high-poverty schools seems unlikely to close the achievement gap.  Either other factors influence achievement far more, the effects of quality teachers on students are much less direct than many assume, or what we're measuring isn't what matters.

In short, these data indicate that we need to broaden our focus beyond teacher quality and/or re-evaluate the way we're currently measuring teacher quality.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cooling Towers Explained

Click here for link to the video.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Explanation of the Northern Lights

Click here for a link to the video.

Rock Hill School Board; Honors Hayes; Buys 2,400 IPADS and: Gives Most Teachers 6% Raise

The Rock Hill School Board held their June Business meeting at the District Office on Monday, June 25, 2012. These are my notes from the meeting:
South Carolina State Senator Wes Hayes

Sandy Andrews, Rock Hill's Adult Education Director, on behalf of all the South Carolina Adult Education Director's, presented South Carolina State Senator Wes Hayes with a State Legislator of the Year Award.

Senator Hayes, who has been a long champion for Adult Education, as well as K-12 education, received the award during Monday's meeting. The board and administration supported the action taken by the state directors.


The board voted to buy 2,400 IPADS as part of the $6 million dollar bond package that passed with a 6-1 vote. $3 million of the 5 year bond went for capital improvements and $3 million went for technology upgrades - of which - $1.2 million is for the purchase of IPADS. Vining voted against the measure because the expected life for an IPAD is considerably less than for the laptops which they will be replacing. Tax payers will be paying for devices 5 years from now that would have been already replaced twice. Because of retiring bonds and some fancy refinancing, there will be no increase in taxes.

As part of the 2012-13 budget which the board approved with a 7-0 vote, there will be a 2% cost of living raise for all employees, and two step increases for teachers who qualify for a step increase. The value of a step increase varies with years of service (early years are about 2.5% and later years a little over 1%) but would probably average out to about 2% per step. This increase will bring the Rock Hill teachers back to where they were before recent budget cuts.

The budget, however, is not balanced. It includes taking $1.1 million dollars from the reserve fund and is based on the budget passed by the senate (which has not been approved by the house). Should the final budget version approved be similar to what the house passed, the balance would be off by an additional $2.4 million. As part of the motion passed by the board, should anything other than the senate version be passed, the board will meet on July 16 to make reductions/changes. There will be no tax increase if the senate proposal is passed.

You can read Shawn Cetrone's report of the meeting by clicking here.

In other action, the board approved the following items with 7-0 votes:
  • Stephanie DiStasio as Principal of Rosewood Elementary School
  • Jacqueline Jones as Principal of The Children's School at Sylvia Circle Elementary
  • Leigh Grier-Falato as the Assistant Principal at Oakdale Elementary School (from Richland 2 school district)
  • Anthony Lancaster as an Assistant Principal at Northwestern High School (from Chester school district)
  • The Consent Agenda (minutes, school trip, facility rentals, and take money from reserve fund to prevent a federal mandated lunch price increase)
  • Policy BE for 1st reading:

  • Policy JICJ for first reading:

  • A TAN Resolution to allow the district to borrow up to $8.9 million (short term) to cover expenses between times that revenue is received.
In other business, the board heard a report on the district/board/superintendent achievements during the year and an update on the administration's IROCK initiative. I'll have comments on both of these later in the summer. If you have an interest, you should watch the meeting replay on Comporium Cable TV

For a little humor, watch this IPAD video which has gone viral. The IPAD was a gift to the girls father and you'll see how he is using his new technology:

Click here for a link to the video.

Monday, June 25, 2012

5 Myths About Science and Math Education

1. American schools have deteriorated in the past 30 or 40 years, as demonstrated by our poor performance on international assessments of math and science achievement. We need to restore American elementary and secondary education to their previous glory.
FACT: The mantra from many educators and policy-makers for a quarter-century has been to lament the decline of American schools. Even the classic 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” which sounded the alarm about the American education system, says, “What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.” But this is a flawed assessment of our past.
The fact that we score poorly now does not mean that our educational system has deteriorated. In fact, it was always bad. Our high school students have always scored at or near the bottom, even as our college and university system was, and is, the best in the world. In a 1965 mathematics assessment, 18 years prior to “A Nation at Risk,” the United States placed last among all nations tested. The other nations achieved mean scores from 36.4 to 21.6. The U.S. score: 13.8.
Incorrectly believing that American students used to excel hampers our reform efforts. It makes the challenge of improving STEM education seem easier than it is.
2. If a student performs poorly, it’s because she doesn’t have the aptitude for math and science.
FACT: Perhaps the most important research finding to emerge from international comparisons of math and science achievement is this: When American students struggle, teachers and parents attribute this failure to low aptitude. When students in many top-ranked nations, like Japan, don’t perform well, teachers and parents conclude that they have not worked hard enough. Aptitude has been overrated as a factor in achievement. Hard work and practice are more important.
3. Curriculum reform is the key to higher achievement in math and science.
FACT: Ever since Sputnik, the federal government and other funders have invested huge sums in curriculum reform. The best-known such effort was the School Mathematics Study Group effort, aka the “new math.” The idea was to teach schoolchildren theoretical math concepts, like set theory. But the students couldn’t get it, and their parents could not help them. The new math was about as successful as New Coke.
Since the 1950s, there have been a number of other massive, expensive curriculum reform efforts about physics, biology, and calculus, among other subjects. Unfortunately, these reforms have not substantially improved the achievement of American students
Better that your child should be taught by an exciting, creative teacher using an outdated text than by a boring or hostile teacher using the latest curriculum.
4. OK, well-prepared teachers are important. We need a massive recruiting drive to attract the top college graduates into teaching.
FACT: We need more excellent teachers, and attracting top students into STEM teaching helps. The problem, however, is not recruiting people into teaching. The problem iskeeping them in teaching. Teachers work very hard. They are not paid enough. They endure great stress daily. These factors drive many out of the profession. A study by the National Education Association found that the five year dropout rate for new teachers is 50 percent.
It’s like pouring water into a sieve. We must develop and implement effective strategies for retaining the talented people who choose this profession. Most important is professional development, the process of renewing and upgrading teacher knowledge and competencies.
5. Only the top students should consider becoming math and science teachers. No C students allowed.
FACT: Excellent teaching requires more than simply possessing knowledge. You have to know how to communicate this knowledge. You have to remember what it was like not to understand the conceptThis is why, sometimes, C students can teach others better than A students. They remember their initial confusion as they struggled to master the concept. The A students “got it” immediately and often have a hard time relating to students who don’t get it.
I am not suggesting that we favor C students over A students. We need talented teachers who thoroughly understand the subject matter. But occasionally a C student becomes an excellent teacher—and therein lies the last lesson:
Fostering student achievement ultimately is not about who the teacher is; it’s about how he or she teaches.
Also in Slate’s special issue on science education: Fred Kaplan explains why another “Sputnik moment” would be impossible; Philip Plait explains why he became the “Bad Astronomer”; Paul Plotz describes how almost blowing up his parents’ basement made him a scientist; Tom Kalil says that the Obama administration is using the Make movement to encourage science education; and Dana Goldstein explains why you should make your daughter play video games. Also, share your ideas for fixing science education in the Hive. This article arises from Future Tense, a joint partnership of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State University.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Rock Hill School Board June Business Meeting is Monday Night.

The Rock Hill School Board will vote on next year's budget at the meeting Monday night. The agenda is below:
Meeting of the Board of Trustees
Monday, June 25, 2012
6:00 p.m. – District Office Board Room


I.   Call to Order
             Approval of Agenda
 (Under consent agenda, all action items will be voted on after one motion and second to approve them without  
 discussion.  If a board member wants any action item discussed or voted on separately, the board member, before the
 agenda is approved, must ask that the action item be moved to the discussion item section.)

 II.    Special Business
 IV.     Citizen Participation
  V.    Consent Action Agenda
      A.  Approval of Minutes
                  1.  May 29, 2012 business meeting
      B.  Approval of Personnel Recommendations
      C.  Approval of Use of Facilities Requests (5) 
      D.  Approval of Use of Vehicle Requests – Salvation Army and Emmett Scott Group
      E.  Approval for School Meal Prices to Remain Unchanged for 2012-13
  VI.    Communications - None
 VII.  Report of the Superintendent
       A.  Announcements
       B.   Progress Report for 2011-12
       C.  iRock Plan
 VIII.     Review of Work Session
             IX.    Action Agenda 
                  A.  Approval of Policy BE – 1st Reading
           B.   Approval of Policy JICJ – 1st Reading
           C.   Approval of Capital Bond Resolution
           D.  Approval of TAN Resolution
           E.   Approval of 2012-2013 Budget
    X.    Other Business
        A.  Legislative Update
    XI.    Adjournment                 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 Northwestern High School Honor Speakers

Below are the honor speakers for the 2012 NHS Graduation:
Valedictorian is Henry Hoang Tran, son of Hoang Tran and Chinh Nguyen. He plants to attend Stanford University. Picture is from The Rock Hill Herald. Video is from Comporium.
Click here for a great story about Henry's family in Andrew Dys' article in the Rock Hill Herald. From the article:
"His parents came to America in 1993, sponsored by the Catholic Church, after his father was released from five years in a Vietnamese prison. That is what happens when the father, Hoang Tran, was a captain in the defeated South Vietnamese Army. He ends up in jail because his side lost. The mother with tiny babies waits for release in poverty that is brutal.
But finally the Trans arrived in Rock Hill with two older boys and two older girls. Nobody spoke a word of English. Henry was born just after the family arrived.
“This is opportunity, America,” said the father.
Henry’s mother said, through translation by the older brother, Huu, who just finished Clemson, that American success requires education.
“That is the way to a better life,” she said. “Through hard times, all we wanted was for our children to succeed. In America.”"

Read more here:

Read more here:
Click here for a link to the video.

Salutatorian is Chandler Jordan Green, daughter of Wallace and Mitzi Green. She plans to attend the University of South Carolina. Picture is from The Rock Hill Herald. Video from Comporium.

Read more here:
Click here for a link to the video. The Northwestern High School Troubadours performed "Maybe Someday": Click here for a link to the video.

Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 South Pointe High School Graduation Speakers

Valedictorian is Daniel Austin Abel, son of Beth Abel. He plans to attend the University of Virginia. Daniel was one of the 12 Charlotte Observer Seniors of the Year. Photo from The Rock Hill Herald. Video from Comporium.

Read more here:
Click here for a link to the video.

Salutatorian is Shivam Vishnuprasad Patel, son of Vic and Shila Patel. He plans to attend Winthrop University. Photo from The Rock Hill Herald. Video from Comporium.

Read more here:
Click here for a link to the video.

The South Pointe Stallion Corral Concert Choir sang "The Prayer" which featured a solo from Salutatorian Shivam Patel and Brianna Wade.

Click here for a link to the video.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Educators and Twitter

A very true post about twitter from the  syded blog:

Teachers – The 10 Stages of Twitter

Stage 1
Sign up to twitter following persuasion/pestering by colleagues. Follow Stephen Fry, a famous sportsman/popstar and a news channel. Read a few tweets, don’t understand what the fuss is about and mock anyone who uses twitter.
Stage 2
Overhear colleagues chatting about twitter and a great article they found. Promise to give it a go again and follow two or three recommendations. Find articles interesting and wonder how to get more. Nervously ask colleagues for help/who to follow and start to visit timeline a couple of times a week.
Stage 3
Think about posting first tweet. In an act of tremendous bravery write: ‘My first tweet, wondering what this twitter thing is all about?’ Sit waiting for a response – feel unloved.
Stage 4
Upon realising you have no followers ask colleagues how to get them? Watch ‘how to’ video on youtube and receive follows from a few educators – strangely Stephen Fry remains uninterested.
Stage 5
Have a mini twitter conversation with colleague, even retweet a couple of statements. Forget the @name and wonder why they don’t reply to your last question. Back to ‘how to’ video and sob quietly when the word hashtag is mentioned.
Stage 6
Practice a couple of tweets that include @names and hashtags. Compare with other tweets on timeline and finally send. Remember to click on hashtag to see other comments. Feel proud that you chose the #edchat timeline and impressed with the amount of followers some people have – decide to follow them.
Stage 7
Retweet any link you find interesting as people might read them. Begin to interact with ‘tweeps’ you have never met and who seem keen to help you. Discover they are prepared to share resources that may be of interest and tell them how great they are. Begin to tweet articles you find on the internet or in Zite magazine. Enjoy the responses. Comment how lovely people are. Followback anyone that follows. Actively search for new people to follow (partly so they will return the favour).
Stage 8
Thank colleagues for introducing you to twitter, impressed with the knowledge you have gleaned and your growing number of followers. Spread the word amongst friends and fellow educators. React badly when partner points out a mild addiction and a crick in your neck. Tweet how ridiculous it is that people aren’t on twitter. Join in weekly twitter chats using education hashtags.
Stage 9
Reflect that twitter is an incredibly positive place and everyone is full of praise. Realise there is a need to filter information and make own judgements. Start a blog to better communicate ideas and tweet to garner opinion. Understand that the more you interact with followers the more honest the feedback. Direct message to your hearts content. Feel pleased you have developed a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Use the phrase ‘twitter is the best staffroom/cpd in the world’ on numerous occasions.
Stage 10 (the reason for this post)
When seeking opinion from a range of people, ask PLN to respond. Begin a twitter chat that not only informs but provokes fresh debate and develops your idea. Wonder what you ever did before twitter?
Stage 10 happened recently with a question:
Help, pretty please – Would you give iPad2 or the new iPad to your students if you had the choice and why? #ukedchat #edchat #ipaded
This graphic illustrates the variety of comment and the reason twitter is an outstanding tool for educators everywhere.
A number of different opinions were offered and that allowed for a more informed debate to be had in school the next day.  We would not have considered many factors if the twitter chat had been missing from the process. How else would we connect with so many experienced professionals in such a short period of time?
Twitter is a fantastic resource for educators around the world and I am indebted to past, present and future folk willing to contribute, inform and debate. The common goal is to enhance learning for our students and educators on twitter are so pro-active it makes you proud to be amongst them (sobbing starts again).
I look forward to the next 10 stages.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Can Smart People Be Stupid?

An interesting post from The New Yorker:


Here’s a simple arithmetic question: A bat and ball cost a dollar and ten cents. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, insisting the ball costs ten cents. This answer is both obvious and wrong. (The correct answer is five cents for the ball and a dollar and five cents for the bat.)
For more than five decades, Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, has been asking questions like this and analyzing our answers. His disarmingly simple experiments have profoundly changed the way we think about thinking. While philosophers, economists, and social scientists had assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents—reason was our Promethean gift—Kahneman, the late Amos Tversky, and others, including Shane Frederick (who developed the bat-and-ball question), demonstrated that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe.
When people face an uncertain situation, they don’t carefully evaluate the information or look up relevant statistics. Instead, their decisions depend on a long list of mental shortcuts, which often lead them to make foolish decisions. These shortcuts aren’t a faster way of doing the math; they’re a way of skipping the math altogether. Asked about the bat and the ball, we forget our arithmetic lessons and instead default to the answer that requires the least mental effort.
Although Kahneman is now widely recognized as one of the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century, his work was dismissed for years. Kahneman recounts how one eminent American philosopher, after hearing about his research, quickly turned away, saying, “I am not interested in the psychology of stupidity.”
The philosopher, it turns out, got it backward. A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology led by Richard West at James Madison University and Keith Stanovich at the University of Toronto suggests that, in many instances, smarter people are more vulnerable to these thinking errors. Although we assume that intelligence is a buffer against bias—that’s why those with higher S.A.T. scores think they are less prone to these universal thinking mistakes—it can actually be a subtle curse.
West and his colleagues began by giving four hundred and eighty-two undergraduates a questionnaire featuring a variety of classic bias problems. Here’s a example:
In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake?
Your first response is probably to take a shortcut, and to divide the final answer by half. That leads you to twenty-four days. But that’s wrong. The correct solution is forty-seven days.
West also gave a puzzle that measured subjects’ vulnerability to something called “anchoring bias,” which Kahneman and Tversky had demonstrated in the nineteen-seventies. Subjects were first asked if the tallest redwood tree in the world was more than X feet, with X ranging from eighty-five to a thousand feet. Then the students were asked to estimate the height of the tallest redwood tree in the world. Students exposed to a small “anchor”—like eighty-five feet—guessed, on average, that the tallest tree in the world was only a hundred and eighteen feet. Given an anchor of a thousand feet, their estimates increased seven-fold.
But West and colleagues weren’t simply interested in reconfirming the known biases of the human mind. Rather, they wanted to understand how these biases correlated with human intelligence. As a result, they interspersed their tests of bias with various cognitive measurements, including the S.A.T. and the Need for Cognition Scale, which measures “the tendency for an individual to engage in and enjoy thinking.”
The results were quite disturbing. For one thing, self-awareness was not particularly useful: as the scientists note, “people who were aware of their own biases were not better able to overcome them.” This finding wouldn’t surprise Kahneman, who admits in “Thinking, Fast and Slow” that his decades of groundbreaking research have failed to significantly improve his own mental performance. “My intuitive thinking is just as prone to overconfidence, extreme predictions, and the planning fallacy”—a tendency to underestimate how long it will take to complete a task—“as it was before I made a study of these issues,” he writes.
Perhaps our most dangerous bias is that we naturally assume that everyone else is more susceptible to thinking errors, a tendency known as the “bias blind spot.” This “meta-bias” is rooted in our ability to spot systematic mistakes in the decisions of others—we excel at noticing the flaws of friends—and inability to spot those same mistakes in ourselves. Although the bias blind spot itself isn’t a new concept, West’s latest paper demonstrates that it applies to every single bias under consideration, from anchoring to so-called “framing effects.” In each instance, we readily forgive our own minds but look harshly upon the minds of other people.
And here’s the upsetting punch line: intelligence seems to make things worse. The scientists gave the students four measures of “cognitive sophistication.” As they report in the paper, all four of the measures showed positive correlations, “indicating that more cognitively sophisticated participants showed larger bias blind spots.” This trend held for many of the specific biases, indicating that smarter people (at least as measured by S.A.T. scores) and those more likely to engage in deliberation were slightly more vulnerable to common mental mistakes. Education also isn’t a savior; as Kahneman and Shane Frederick first noted many years ago, more than fifty per cent of students at Harvard, Princeton, and M.I.T. gave the incorrect answer to the bat-and-ball question.
What explains this result? One provocative hypothesis is that the bias blind spot arises because of a mismatch between how we evaluate others and how we evaluate ourselves. When considering the irrational choices of a stranger, for instance, we are forced to rely on behavioral information; we see their biases from the outside, which allows us to glimpse their systematic thinking errors. However, when assessing our own bad choices, we tend to engage in elaborate introspection. We scrutinize our motivations and search for relevant reasons; we lament our mistakes to therapists and ruminate on the beliefs that led us astray.
The problem with this introspective approach is that the driving forces behind biases—the root causes of our irrationality—are largely unconscious, which means they remain invisible to self-analysis and impermeable to intelligence. In fact, introspection can actually compound the error, blinding us to those primal processes responsible for many of our everyday failings. We spin eloquent stories, but these stories miss the point. The more we attempt to know ourselves, the less we actually understand.
Drawing by James Stevenson.
Note: This article has been modified to include mention of Shane Frederick.

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