Thursday, April 08, 2004

Toddlers & Daylight Savings Time 

I have to admit a first time event. My daughter, Emily, is now 21 months old. We observed daylight savings time this Sunday and have not had a peaceful night since. It is an understatement to say she is having a hard time adjusting to the new time. She REFUSES to adjust her wake and sleep schedules to the new times.

Before we are bombarded with advice, let me say that my wife, Julie, and I are following the perfect regimen. We began adjusting Emily's sleep schedule about a week before the event. We are moving her times to wake and go to bed at intervals. Emily, however, is resisting with her whole being. She is not a defiant child. She has been wonderful in so many ways. It is just surprising to see her rebel against something that her father has never really appreciated either. Why do we observe daylight savings time? If anyone mentions the farmers, I will remind you of two facts: #1 all tractors have headlights and #2 Emily and I are not farmers.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Further Test Thoughts 

Spoke with co-blogger Bryan about my post below on standardized testing. He is an insightful person and a good friend. These observations are worth considering.

Standardized testing is not inherently good or bad. Testing is completely amoral. The question should be is the standardized test chosen for the students an appropriate test. Kimberly Swygert (aka Number 2 Pencil) has a running commentary on testing. As she is working on a graduate degree in psychometrics, I would trust her understanding of the matter. I accept the premise of standardized testing when adequate work has been performed to ensure that the test matches the goals of learning.

The argument against standardized testing is, in my opinion, shallow. Many times, the complaint from teachers takes the form of teaching to the test. Teachers feel they must teach their students not a traditional curriculum, but a test prep regimen to ensure adequate performance on the test. I am quite certain that many teachers have followed this argument with conviction. The twist in the matter is that mastery of the material ensures adequate performance on the test. If the test is measuring a student's ability to perform addition, then the teacher must teach addition and the student must master addition. The argument of teaching to the test must come from the selection of a test that does not match the learning goals of the school OR a teacher teaching material that does not match the learning goals of the school OR the school having inappropriate learning goals. If a school system is happy with the selection of learning goals/objectives, then the teacher should focus the lesson plans on those learning goals, and the test chosen should measure those learning goals. All three must be aligned or the train can derail at any junction.

Testing is not the bugaboo it has been portrayed to be.


Standardized Testing 

Joanne Jacobs has a well detailed rebuff of the American Electronics Association's report on math and science learning in the US. According to the manufacturer association's report, jobs are being moved overseas because high-tech workers in the US are not available - because - wait for it - wait for it ---------

STANDARDIZED TESTING has ruined schools in the US.

Shocking. I apologize to any readers who may have found this message startling. Ironically, the report indicates that standardized testing has driven down learning. Hmmm. Yet, standardized tests are hard. Standardized tests are unfair. Standardized tests are the reason some states will not give every student a diploma. Standardized tests are unfair to minority students and students in poor school districts. Standardized tests are SATAN.

Standardized tests are still, in the end, just tests. Every student in every school in the US has taken so many tests that the word is synonymous with learning, education, and school. Consider this viewpoint. I challenged the students in one of the classes I taught at UT (University of Tennessee - Knoxville) to think this through: Should a high school student who has test anxiety be allowed to attend UT? Should a student who scores very low twice (everyone has a bad day) be allowed to attend UT? How many times should a person be allowed to take a standardized test until the score is high enough to gain entry? At first, the students were very compassionate in their remarks and discussion. If the person can pass courses, then yes, UT should ignore the test scores. Noble and selfless. BUT.... When I asked had they had the experience of a class being slowed because someone was asking too many questions and quite obviously was not prepared for the course? Had they been assigned to a team project and found that one or more of their fellow students was indeed the weak link? Well, yes. Then, what is the solution. The "slow" student should not have been allowed in UT.

The point being, a university life is full to capacity of tests. It is our bread and butter. If you attend a university, you must take and pass TESTS. Academic tests. It is what it is. If we reflect back on the hypothetical student who has test anxiety or "just does not perform well on standardized tests", then we should begin to intuit that this person is not a good candidate for situations that require academic TEST taking. Like maybe, oh let's just call it, hmmm, college.

Consider one or both of the following scenarios:
- Your son or daughter needs high-risk, life-saving surgery. How low of a score on the MCAT should the surgeon be allowed to have and still be a surgeon? Should the medical school have looked beyond the person's inability to score well on the MCAT? Should the admissions office have looked at the student's background to decide if possibly the school may have failed the student? How dumb can the surgeon be and still be allowed to perform surgery?

- Your son or daughter has been charged with murder, yet you are certain that he or she is innocent. How low a score should your child's attorney be allowed to have on the LSAT and Bar exam and still be licensed to practice law? Should the admissions office at the school have been put under pressure to admit your child's future attorney because of affirmative action or some diversity initiative, even though the person was not a competitive candidate?

The point being that tests are tests. There are well made tests, poorly-designed tests, tests of aptitude, tests of previous learning, tests of specific knowledge, tests of specific skills, driving tests, written tests, performance tests, pop quizzes, mid-terms, final exams, state boards, standardized tests, field tests, online tests, tests of character, reading tests, test of comprehension, medical tests, drug test, tests of eye-hand coordination, field sobriety tests, test drives, flight tests and test-tests. The statistical analyses I do each day as a doctoral student are tests. With each test, I am testing a hypothesis. I will take a 10-day written test called comprehensive exams that must be passed or I will not be awarded a Ph.D.

I give students the greatest advice possible to prepare for tests in my classes. Come to class, learn the information, know the answers and you will do well on the tests.

Monday, April 05, 2004

TV and Attention Deficit--who would've guessed? 

In an article today on FOXNews reported that TV watching by children under the age of 3 years, can increase the possibility of attention deficit problems. This is a significant finding, however, this may not mean to sell your TV set until your child is over 3.

Please note that I have not read the Pediatrics article yet and either Sid or I will try to make a future entry about such. First, the study suggests an increase in attention deficit behavior--NOT a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). Also these results are based on parents' reports of attention deficit behavior. Most parents do not really know what the attention span of a 2 or 3 year old child is so therefore how are they able to determine whether their child has symptoms of attention deficit behavior.

Second, the type of tv programs were not addressed in the FoxNews article. Were the programs cartoons, game shows, Soaps, or what? Educational tv programs (e.g. Seasame Street, 3-2-1 Contact) have a completely different rhythm and approach to them then programs for adults or older children.

Finally, it is unclear the overall length of time this study seemed to take into account. How long had these children been watching this many hours of tv per day. I don't condone the tv as a babysitter, but I believe that occasional use of the tv so that mom or dad can go to the bathroom or take a short break may be a good thing.

Please don't think that I am for children watching tv (especially in the recent events with Janet Jackson, Brittney Spears, Madonna, and others). I just don't want parents believing that they will permanently damage their children if they watch any tv.

The best thing you can do is to monitor the tv shows your children do watch and do not be afraid to cut off the tv especially when it's a nice day!!

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