December 25, 2005

Done and not done

Many of my friends, neighbors, and colleagues have been preparing (perhaps frantically) for either of the holidays today (and Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah to those for whom it's relevant). And, from both popular culture and personal testimony, I gather that there is a certain point at which one says (or thinks), "It's not done, but it's as done as it's going to be for now."

The publication a few days ago of John Robert Warren's State-Level High School Completion Rates gave me a similar feeling as an editor, researcher, and observer of research. Last year, EPAA published Jing Miao and Walt Haney's High School Graduation Rates, which compared several methods for estimating high school graduation. Since then, Jay Greene has adjusted his method to account for population change with census data (though he should've acknowledged Rob Warren's work on this point, which has been available from Warren's web site at the University of Minnesota for a few years). And Warren polished his method, I think presented in a refereed journal for the first time in EPAA.

More below the jump.

(For what it's worth, getting Warren's article out was the easiest process I've had yet with an article with tables or figures: I make a template document available to authors when I accept a manuscript, and he took full advantage of that opportunity. So all I needed to do was ask him for slightly different versions of two figures, work a bit with the formatting of tables, and do a few search-and-replace commands for typographical reasons, and it was ready to go. Well, until the errata, at which point I would create an updated version. So the article is done and not done.)

The substantive research, however, will go on, and here is where I'm sure any author feels that "it's as done as it's going to be, for now." The renewed interest in measuring graduation comes from No Child Left Behind, which includes a graduation rate as a key measure, but without really defining it well. So in step academic entrepreneurs, with their suggestions (and with the additional motivation for some of judging reforms by graduation rates—Warren has a number of pieces that use his measure for other purposes, so he is done and not done).

Part of the problem with measuring graduation has been school officials' and statisticians' continued publication of data based on administrative dropout counts (an awful idea and something inherited from the first headline-level concerns over dropping out as such in the 1960s). The recent research has focused properly on measuring graduation instead, and I think Warren has a pretty good approach on measuring cohort graduation at the state level. By definition, it certainly is the latest approach.

But work will continue. I have my own ideas, focused on statistics reported by age rather than grade. You can see a partial draft of that approach, with the introduction of the central concept and one illustration. The real sticking point for all of us here is estimating migration at anything below the state level. Warren's approach is good at the state level, but things get gnarly very quickly at local levels, which is where NCLB's graduation rate becomes very important, and where we'd like to have a reasonable method. In individual school districts and schools, net migration rates can be high enough to make an unadjusted cohort or period measure highly inaccurate.

And, at the level of a journal, I'm also done and not done. Warren's piece is the last article for the year in Education Policy Analysis Archives, and this is roughly the end of the first year I've been editor. It's been an intriguing transition (full of things to learn about post-acceptance processes!), and I'm delighted to have ended with a piece in my own area of interest and that continues a small series that EPAA has published on it over the years. So the article is done and the field is not done.

For now, I'm headed out of town for a week, with little if any e-mail access, having just sent the first editor's draft of the first article for next year to its authors. It's provocative and continues the journal's history of using an electronic journal for things that a print journal could never pull off—in this case, publishing a 58-page article, turning it around from acceptance to publication on short order (compared to the post-acceptance process at many hardcopy journals), and publishing a set of appendices that's longer than the article and longer than many entire issues of hardcopy journals. But having polished the 58 pages of the article and done a once-through on the appendices, it's time for me to send my version to the authors with minor queries and head out of town, done and not done.

December 24, 2005


The UMass Dartmouth student who had claimed he was visited by Homeland Security agents after an ILL request for Mao's Little Red Book has now confessed to making up the story.

I don't usually fall for urban legends and hoaxes, but there's a first (or nth) time for everything. And I suppose that, after all the undocumented claims about outrages on campuses from other POVs, it's time that a hoax catered to civil-liberties fears. But I was wrong not to note earlier that it was alleged, and kudos to those (including Gary McGath) who were more cautious.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 9:14 AM (Permalink) |

December 21, 2005

Lincoln and Bush

Caleb McDaniel has a wonderful post this morning about executive power and history.

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Posted in History at 8:17 AM (Permalink) |

December 20, 2005


So what do faculty do after turning in grades? Some escape town entirely, but while I'm heading to a family gathering next week, the rest of this week is getting to some things that are past due—which constitutes roughly 98% of my to-do list.

Today, that's mostly consisted of working on a MS that I'm hoping to get out to the world January 2nd. It's a substantial piece, about 200 pages, and while most of that bulk comprises appendices, I need to polish the main article. Right now, I'm up to Table 12 on page 25.

More on the jump.

Some months ago, I had an interesting dream in which a crowd of sandhill cranes was preventing me from moving around. The piece de resistance was the sandhill-crane couple in a car, who refused to move the car. Being entirely ignorant of most forms of dream analysis, I boldly interpreted the cranes in the dream as being my various obligations in life, including at work. For those who have never been lucky enough to see them, sandhill cranes are large birds whose early-morning honk is unmistakable (once identified). Their overhead flight in my neighborhood is usually about 15-30 feet over the ground, so you get a close look at them. I've never been threatened by the critters (different story with geese, rather nasty critters), so when I've felt overwhelmed during the semester, I've explained to myself and others that I need to take care of some cranes. After all, most of my obligations at this point are entirely voluntary, rather unique and attractive when examined close-up, and have absolutely no side-effects other than wanting to spend more time with them.

EPAA is really a small flock of cranes. The one demanding my attention today is the post-acceptance pipeline. Then there's the pre-review processing, which I hope to get to tomorrow. And the invitations-to-new-board-member-invitees. And planning-the-future bit, with one of the associate editors. And then back to this article in preparation. And so it goes, but without the Vonnegut connotation.

Open-access publishing

Today, Inside Higher Ed features a new book by one of EPAA's editorial board members, John Willinsky. The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship will probably be one of the things I need to take with me on a trip next week. It's sure to spark considerable debate about academic publishing as an enterprise.

And given John's hard work on the editorial board and his fabulous Public Knowledge Project, he has quite a bit of practical experience with open-access publishing. Pay heed, fellow academics!

December 19, 2005

Free Public Commons principles in university-commercial collaboration

Check out the Open Collaboration Principles developed by a group of universities and companies that can guide future collaboration. While the New York Times article gushes about this, it's not a fabulous breakthrough that says that universities and companies won't attempt to squeeze every penny from research, but it is a model for institutions and individual researchers who advocate open-access projects, or those that have a spirit of the public commons, so they're not left twisting in the wind without knowing how to handle a mix of open and proprietary components.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 7:09 AM (Permalink) |

December 17, 2005

Write a paper and get an FBI visit?

A University of Massachusetts student was interviewd by the FBI for suspicious behavior after he requested a copy of Mao's Little Red Book through Interlibrary Loan for a paper he was finishing. Not only is this an interference in legitimate college activities, it's an utter waste of FBI time.

Update: As Ralph Luker notes, the agents in question were from the Department of Homeland Security, not the FBI. See also today's Inside Higher Ed article.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 4:22 PM (Permalink) |

December 16, 2005

Harts and courses

There's a brouhaha some folks like Inside Higher Ed and Erin O'Connor (in her role as ACTA blogger) are brewing from the recent release of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, about the supposedly declining literacy of college graduates. I haven't explored the details, but I know from past panel assessments that public releases are spun heavily, and there are usually lots of complexities involved, from the meaning of ordinal thresholds to the sampling to profiles by age, which is something pretty important for an adolescent-and-up survey.

So even though I suspect O'Connor and I would agree that colleges should fund English departments properly instead of seeing them as cash cows or service departments (get yer comp class and lube change in less than 30 minutes!), I'm a little cautious about brandishing brutality in the brewing brouhaha.

But if someone knows more about the details of the results, please enlighten me!

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Posted in Education policy at 5:38 PM (Permalink) |

December 15, 2005

Social justice, redux

Now that NCATE has responded to criticisms of its demand that institutions assess dispositions of future teachers—more specifically, the allegation (with some considerable documentation) that several of its accredited institutions have been using the dispositions as an excuse for ideological screening—by explaining that dispositions are to be assessed through observable behavior, KC Johnson asks, Will NCATE enforce this new guideline? This isn't a new guideline, since I've seen the term "observable behavior" for a few years, something that seemed mundane to me and made me very curious about the institutions trying to use NCATE as an excuse for their own behavior. I read it more as a you can't use us as an excuse for your behavior warning.

But with at least some clarity in common expectations (outside colleges who think that dispositions should be assessed through political statements), I want to turn to the second issue that got people up in arms about this, the term social justice...

In much of the criticism of colleges of education has been one common thread: ridicule of some colleges for stating that part of their aim is promoting social justice. Our own college nixed the inclusion of that term in the statement of our basic operating principles, but I'm glad for that decision for reasons other than the term itself. Public institutions should not imply that the faculty as a whole are committed either to rampant status quo-ism or some vague transformational ethic. That's to protect the academic freedom of faculty as well as any impropriety of attaching specific ideological content to an institution.

Then there's a more philosophical question of whether trying to institutionalize social justice as a term doesn't emasculate the concept.

How do you stop a violist from playing?
Put music on the stand. (Yes, I'm a violist.)
How do you kill an incisive new social idea?
Put it in a university mission statement.

The temptation to institutionalize a relatively new concept is poor intellectual practice. Why would one ever want to reify a term that's still under debate? No one can agree what such terms as cultural competence or social justice mean, and as intellectuals we're supposed to be inviting debate, not closing it off by putting it into some institutional document.

But there's a bit of a problem with academics engaged in research about human beings have when we say, "Hold on! Social justice doesn't belong in any mission statement or university guideline for a public institution!" And here's the problem: the 1979 Belmont Report's justice principle for research involving human participants. Out of the Tuskegee Syphylis Study came a firm commitment by the commission writing the Belmont Report to include broad principles in its description of ethical guidelines, and every time I write a new IRB protocol, I have to answer questions that come directly from those guidelines.

And while ethics are not a cut and dried matter, we have to face the fact that we've lived with the institutionalization of justice in the very workings of research for more than a quarter-century—not only with little evidence of harm from the institutionalization of the term but with some pretty good effects, I think, in terms of research ethics. So if the Belmont Report could structure justice into research ethics, can I argue that forcefully against the inclusion of social justice into teacher-education guidelines?

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Posted in Education policy at 9:39 AM (Permalink) |

December 14, 2005


Ugh. Someone has hacked into Dr. History's blog, turning it into a one-entry porn reference. (Proof that this is not Dr. H's work is the Google Blogsearch's list of Dr. H's posts.) I don't know her in real life, but it's highly disturbing that someone would have the maliciousness of screwing up an academic blog. And the Internet Archive doesn't save blogspot entries, apparently.

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Posted in Random comments at 12:58 AM (Permalink) |

December 13, 2005

Triangulation on accountability?

On December 4, Andrew Rotherham begged Democrats to take a strong stand on accountability ... [or miss] good chances to legitimately attack the Republicans on education and build collateral credibility on other issues. He explained what he terms the lack of such a stand on too many years of inhaling NEA laughing gas about the law while forgetting who the real constituents are. This argument is similar to those of a USA Today editorial, which Rotherham cites.

One side of this argument is a crude reliance on a limited set of polling about attitudes towards one version of accountability. The USA Today editorial makes that point explicitly, while Rotherham addressed it more subtly. As an historian, I'll dun both of them for violating the fundamental rule of reading polls: The attitudes of Americans on any important policy question are more subtle, contradictory, and malleable than any poll can measure. The latest Gallup/PDK poll on education has results at variance with these claims (much like the 2004 Americans for Better Education poll came up with different results from that of the NEA), which is not to say that the September 2005 PDK poll is perfect but that overgeneralizing is unwarranted. I'm not sure what the motivation is of either the USA Today editorial board or Rotherham in this, but the namecalling is unproductive and distasteful.

Full disclosure: I'm a member of the United Faculty of Florida, whose state affiliate is the Florida Education Association and thus is jointly affiliated with the NEA and AFT at the national level. I'm moderately active at the higher-ed level in Florida and see a small part of internal debates. I don't always agree with my state affiliate or the nationals, but they're relatively democratic with a small d, which means that discussion can be quite heated if civil in the arenas I've seen.

The more important points about policy and politics are below the cut-line.

The more serious argument is that the high-stakes-testing version of accountability is not only effective, not only promotes equity in education, but is the only strategy to do so, and anything other than that is just plain wimpy on civil rights. That's a strong statement, in part because it implies that the burden of proof lies with those who disagreement with a particular version of accountability.

But there are several fundamental problems any serious researcher should have about this claim, and the first one is whether there is a clear consensus about the empirical evidence here (on the effectiveness of high-stakes accountability). As the editor of an education policy journal, I'm not only officially agnostic about the empirical claims of high-stakes testing proponents and opponents but in favor of active disagreement about this (as contentious articles on this point boosts readership for the thus-far-revenueless online, free journal—we're talking reputation, not cash). Fortunately for journals if unfortunately for policymakers and pundits who crave certainty, there's widespread, well-founded disagreement—even acrimony—over the empirical evidence.

So policymakers are really making policies and changing practices without much consensus guidance from research. No surprise there, says my cynical side, but on a more pragmatic approach policymakers often must make changes without evidence about consequences, because the consequences of inaction would be greater. So there is some abstract justification for treating the citizens as guinea pigs. Each generation of children comprise a group of guinea pigs for that era's fads. Some of the fads are serendipitous and some are just foolish.

So if high-stakes testing has no research consensus behind it, but we can't dismiss it as entirely without merit (even if some arguments in its favor make me wince), then how should we categorize it? As an historian, I see the last 20 years of accountability rhetoric and policy as a period of experimentation. More than 30 years ago, an astute observer of a 1972 conference of Southern state legislators noted that his or her (almost certainly his) informants didn't know what they really wanted in accountability, but they were sure that administrators didn't know what it should be either, and they didn't trust the administrators. (The report of this anonymous observer appears in both the papers of Governor Rubin Askew in Tallahassee and also former Florida House Speaker T. Terrell Sessums at the University of South Florida, if my memory serves.) Over the past 33 years, then, we've seen a variety of attempts to get a handle on accountability, loosely speaking making sure that schools fulfill some implied social contract in return for public funding.

Yet, somehow, you generally don't see much analysis of accountability efforts as experimental. I've read lots of huffing and puffing about values—much of it well-intentioned, some of it thoughtful, some of it full of warm nitrogen—and a lot of assumptions about what high-stakes testing is actually doing. But often enough, after reading either newspaper stories or internet-released reports, I feel more hyperventilated than enlightened. There is more complexity in the ever-changing world of schools-under-pressure than a single article (such as one that I'll be releasing in early January) or a book (such as Linda McNeil's Contradictions of School Reform) can capture. This is good news for thoughtful researchers: more to keep us busy! It's not so good news for those who want certainty in their lives. To the latter, I say: tough!

And, for the record, I have no objections to combining political analysis with school reform. Askew did that brilliantly in the early 1970s for K-12, arguing that the key issue for education in Florida at the time was equality for all poor and disadvantaged children. I draw the line, though, at ad hominem attacks, for a few reasons: they distort reality, they're distasteful, and they suppress open debate. You can have a vigorous debate civilly, and I expect it. To those who are advocates of high-stakes accountability or critics of it, I challenge you to suppress your snarling. Try gazing in the mirror when doing it: It really doesn't become you.

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Posted in Education policy at 7:01 PM (Permalink) |

Haloscan comments with ads??

Has anyone else noticed the appearance of text ads in Haloscan comments? It's appearing in my comments but not in those of some other blogs. Hmmn...

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Posted in Random comments at 3:16 PM (Permalink) |

Volunteer annoyances

I volunteer in my son's elementary school on Monday mornings, but things have changed this year. Because of a state law requiring fingerprinting/background checks for vendor employees in public schools, school districts are having to make choices about which volunteer situations require fingerprinting (at a cost of $50/person, which the district can't really pay and can't ask volunteers to do). Hillsborough has decided that volunteers and researchers need to be fingerprinted if they're going to be with kids one-on-one. I understand, but the practical import is that I'm not spending one-on-one time tutoring a child. I've instead spent rather frustrating time in the classroom helping, well, maybe one child in the midst of a social-studies lesson.

And then there was yesterday. One student asked me if I could help her with a longstanding annoyance. It turns out that the touchpads on the school's cart of computeres are all set to have the tap-click feature (where tapping on the touchpad is equivalent to a mouse click). Me, personally, I turn that sucker off because the pad of my thumb touches that off, and the cursor goes wild while I'm typing. So I perfectly understood what she wanted.

Except that I couldn't find the right setting.

A friend of mine who works for the computer company who makes these laptops guessed that the district employee who set up the computers failed to install the Synaptics touchpad driver that would allow for the toggling of the tap-click feature. One more thing that makes the students waste time and feel like they're incompetent.

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Posted in Random comments at 8:04 AM (Permalink) |

December 12, 2005


Oh, that's funny. One of my students wrote that the cave allegory in Plato's The Republic is the "least sensible" idea in the whole semester.

Quite. ;-)

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Posted in Teaching at 11:52 PM (Permalink) |

NY Sun and Al-Arian

Josh Gerstein of the New York Sun called me this afternoon and asked me about the future of Al-Arian vis-a-vis USF. My answers were a technical way of say, "Gee, I don't know, and here is why it's complicated," as well as, "It's a bit premature to say that anything at the trial justifies or undermines the administration's claims in firing him in 2003." Gerstein's a smart reporter, which means that probably 70% or more of the article will be accurate and in context. He had also talked to my coauthor Greg McColm on the article we wrote, so I'll be curious in comparing notes with Greg.

(Hey! I take Phil Graham's quip about journalism being the first draft of history seriously. Think about the consequence of that a bit and you'll understand...)

Fortunately, he called just after I had finished a paper. Distractions, distractions, ...

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Posted in Academic freedom at 5:32 PM (Permalink) |

No motivation

I'm reading final papers from one class and waiting for the other class to upload final exam answers today to the university's portal. But I have a family trip to plan and purchase for, errands to run, house things to arrange, and bills to pay, so I have plenty of grading to do and no great motivation to kick me into high gear. This is life. I may end up with a caffeine overdose, but I'll do what I need to...

In the meantime, I'm just happy that I'm in Florida this time of year. For those in colder and messier weather right now, stay warm and safe and don't worry. You'll get your Schadenfreude (if you really want it) come next hurricane season. We in Tampa are rather due for a big one.

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Posted in Teaching at 12:55 PM (Permalink) |

December 11, 2005

Social policy and history

And here's what you get with the failure to know a bit of social history:

"You didn't have a massive immigration of people who were retaining allegiance to another nation and maybe coming here temporarily and then going back," [Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence Director John] Eastman said. "In 1868, you didn't make that trip across the Atlantic twice."

This excerpt from an L.A. Times story on proposals to remove birthright citizenship just boggles the mind. Of course you had circular migration 100 years ago, even among Eastern European Jews. See for example Mark Wyman's survey of historical circular migration in the U.S., Round Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993).

The proposal is silly on a number of other grounds, among which include the claim that one of the motivations for illegal immigration is to make sure your child is born in the U.S., has citizenship, and thus can sponsor you for citizenship when she or he reaches adulthood. As the conservative Manhattan Institute's fellow Tamar Jacoby told the reporter, "I have never met a poor person who has his wife walk across the desert at eight months pregnant so they can wait 21 years to be sponsored by their child."

But it may be attached to various legislation because of our everpresent society-wide ambivalence about immigration and the xenophobia that always bubbles underneath the surface.

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Posted in History at 7:32 AM (Permalink) |

December 9, 2005

Punished for speaking your home language

A 16-year-old who speaks English also speaks his parents' language and is suspended from school for speaking his home language in the hallway, not in class. A nightmare from the early 20th century? No. Today's Kansas City-area schools. Fortunately, the superintendent of the district rescinded the punishment, but civil-rights advocates are still fuming, and rightly so. This has nothing to do with the language of instruction and everything to do with the politics of language.

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Posted in History at 5:49 AM (Permalink) |

December 8, 2005

Exam time

For your information, here is the bonus question on my students' final assignment this semester:

According to the most recent Gallup poll of opinions about public schools, a majority of those polled thought that students or their parents were largely responsible for students' achievement, but a majority also thought that schools were responsible for closing the achievement gap. Explain this paradox, using course materials.

The real test here is to see how many of them use course materials instead of bluffing their way through an explanation.

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Posted in Teaching at 9:19 AM (Permalink) |

December 7, 2005

Al-Arian trial end

Along with other bloggers, I'll say a few words about the end of the (first) trial of Sami Al-Arian and his co-defendants after the jump.

  • As the more rabid bloggers have noted, the prosecutors were incompetent, dragging the trial along without clearly connecting the dots for the jury.
  • The prosecutors' incompetence may have saved Judge James Moody from the embarrassment of having convictions overturned on appeal because of his decisions. If I remember correctly, he let the prosecutors introduce Alisa Flatow's death in a terrorist bombing before they had established a link from the defendants to that incident.
  • The result of this trial does not mean that Al-Arian is innocent. The American system of jurisprudence has no checkbox for innocence, only guilty or not guilty. We often interpret the latter as a sign of innocence, but that's not technically what happens. And comments that jurors made to reporters yesterday indicated that they just weren't convinced that there was a clear intentional connection between fundraising by the defendants and specific acts of terror by the Islamic Jihad. Apparently they didn't focus much on attorney Moffitt's arguments about free speech, or at least not directly.

So what of Al-Arian and USF? The result of this trial does not justify USF's firing of Al-Arian—but the trial's value as an external judgment of the actions of USF administrators is minimal, as I've written before. And several things would have to happen before Al-Arian's pending grievance is resolved: He'd have to get out of jail, not be in deportation proceedings, and decide he wants his job back. Since there are 9 charges still pending, and the reputation of the Justice Department's anti-terrorism prosecution effort is at stake, I agree with the observer (whose name I forget—I read a bunch of stories in a blur this morning) who said that the Justice Department is stuck with the case until the (likely bitter) end, and then they're stuck with attempting to deport Al-Arian. One of his codefendants, Sameeh Hammoudeh (a sometime USF grad student), was judged not guilty but had already agreed to be deported if not convicted.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 6:49 AM (Permalink) |

December 6, 2005

Disciplinary reading recommendations

Congrats to Margaret Soltan (aka University Diarist), whose Inside Higher Ed column today explores the nature of English as a field, or the lack thereof. It's not my discipline, but I understand her concerns. History was in the midst of such consternation a while ago, or maybe it's still there and I haven't noticed.

And while we're on disciplinary-pondering recommendations and the inevitable debates about postmodernism, may I suggest Ian Hacking's The Social Construction of What? (2000), which is currently irritating a group of honors-college students here at USF. Or, rather, his elliptical references are irritating them. Nonetheless, it's a good and important read on the philosophy of science, and the third chapter is invaluable for distinguishing different questions in social-construction and deconstruction arguments:

  • Contingency—the extent to which a concept's development and history could have been different
  • Nominalism—whether a concept reflects some outside-humanity reality or whether our concepts are human bins (or pigeonholes) for a reality that is either not structured that way or has no structure we can recognize has humans
  • Explanations of stability—whether the long-term viability of a concept reflects the utility and consistency within a field or the social and professional factors that impose a certain inertia on disciplinary conventions

Hacking describes Kuhn as high on the social-construction scale for all three dimensions and rates himself most highly in nominalism. I think Hacking is right in rating Kuhn high for contingency and explanations of stability (he's the one who abused paradigm for the first time, after all), but is dead wrong on nominalism. (Incidentally, I never met Kuhn but did meet his son, as he and my older brother Stan were college friends.)

For the record, I'd rate myself relatively high (on the social-construction scale) in his contingency category and medium on nominalism and stability. Then again, we historians naturally argue for contingency, or we'd have nothing to talk about.

Update (noonish): I forgot to credit my brother Ron (a geographer at ASU) for ties to some of the work discussed by Hacking in his chapter on rocks. Yes, rocks. Hackins discusses the work of McKenzie and Vasconcelos and their theory that nanobacteria are responsible for creating dolomite, and since my brother has some experience with biological explanation of geographic/geologic phenomena, I asked him if he knew of this stuff. He said it was fairly complex, since it touches on what's called the faint-sun paradox. This is far beyond my knowledge. That's why he's the geographer and I'm the historian. Now, ask me about the irony of Daniel Schreiber's career as an educator, and I'm there.

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Posted in Random comments at 7:37 AM (Permalink) |

A paean to the city where I learned

This morning I just discovered a wonderful weekly-paper article on linguists' analysis of native Philadelphian speech. I spent ten years in the Philly area, and I have to distort one of Jim Quinn's sentences thus: Our dialect is so unique the University of
Pennsylvania has had a whole department, led by William Labov, one of
America's most distinguished linguists, studying it for more than 25 years
... and they still couldn't get anyone to tell them where to get a good cheesesteak. (They forgot the at.)

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Posted in Random comments at 6:38 AM (Permalink) |

December 5, 2005

Submissions in-box

I love having a separate submissions email address for EPAA But I wish it weren't filled up more often with spam than articles. 25 deletions and counting this morning...

December 4, 2005

How to use variable-rate stuff in individual-level analyses?

Reading is the theme for me for the last week—reading student work, a minor truckload of submissions that came in recently for EPAA, and some other stuff. In about an hour, I'll drive down to where my children are in the last chess tournament for the year, so there isn't enough time to get into the databases I just got permission to use (or rather, an IRB exemption because they're anonymous data).

But after writing about growth earlier this week (if this is the end of the week), I've been thinking about the use of so-called variable-rate demographic models for populations. (See that entry's reference to a Preston et al. text, which has the relevant citations. Yes, I took several courses from Sam Preston at Penn. He's a very smart mortality expert, and I love taking advantage of his and others' work.)

Can I use that same principle for analyzing individual-level data? Is it possible to take population-based information on age-varying rates for a parameter (say, school attendance) and use that in an analysis of cross-sectional data (e.g., the annual current population survey), to partially eliminate the conflation of age- and cohort-related effects on the item of interest?

Once again, an idea hits at the end of a semester. Ai!

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Posted in Research at 3:16 PM (Permalink) |

December 3, 2005

Tennessee Board of Regents and ABOR

Yesterday, the Nashville Tennessean reported that the state Board of Regents would vote yesterday on a proposed student bill of rights. The McMinville, TN, Southern Standard reports that the Regents approved it. Unfortunately, I can't find a follow-up article this morning on the Tennessean's website (or on the websites of the dailies for Knoxville or Memphis), and the two sources noted above describe the language in very different terms. The Regents site doesn't have a clear route to the agenda and materials. Can anyone help me find an official source for this?

(Adam Groves tipped me off.)

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Posted in Academic freedom at 9:56 AM (Permalink) |

December 2, 2005

Pomposity Awkward, but the right spirit

I just received an e-mail from Teachers College Record about a World Wide Premier of a Paper from a Forthcoming Issue. My journal publishes, but the Record has premiers. Wow. Does Renee Zellweger attend them?

Update (12/30/05): I wish that the Record has explained a little bit more clearly what they're doing, which is releasing one article immediately (or a bit before publication), instead of the 6-months window after publication (if I remember correctly). That's certainly increasing access to the journal and a good thing, and it probably required some interesting negotiations with the publisher (Blackwell?).

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Posted in Education policy at 10:28 AM (Permalink) |

Good news

Well, it looks like Penn dropped the charges against the student-photographer of student-exhibitionists (hat tip to Erin O'Connor), Penn State faculty finally created an AAUP chapter to defend themselves with, and Missouri faculty have been saved from the dissolution/disorganization of the University of Missouri system, according to an e-mail I received overnight (on an AAUP general list) from David Brodsky, who also has an online analysis of Horowitz's 'Academic Bill of Rights'.

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Posted in Academic freedom at 8:45 AM (Permalink) |

December 1, 2005

ABCTE news

Andrew Rotherham reports troubles with the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, what appears to be an electronic correspondence course for teacher wannabes. This is the nth entity failure that former Arizona Commissioner of Education Lisa Keegan has been involved with, I believe? Not that they're all her fault, but she doesn't have a great track record.

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Posted in Education policy at 10:31 PM (Permalink) |

Neologism of the day

I just received the fall 2005 issue of the American Educational Research Journal with an article by Geoffrey Borman, Robert Slavin, and others, with a multiyear, multilevel evaluation of Success for All (insert appropriate intellectual-property-protecting symbols here, I assume). Among other things, this will put additional pressure on the federal government's exclusion of Success for All from research-based practices. There are some questions I have about Slavin's approach, but there's no perfect intervention in schools. The article's worth the read.

On the other hand, however, I do have to take my fellow education researchers (not really Borman et al.) to task for the coining of a new awful term: biosocial developmental contextualism.

I think I need to gargle after just thinking about that phrase. Ick.

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Posted in Education policy at 5:18 PM (Permalink) |

Student photography and speech on campus

Erin O'Connor has a set of links and commentary on the case of a University of Pennsylvania student who posted pictures of a couple making love in a campus dorm window (in plain public view). Since bad taste seems to be going the rounds these days as a target of university crackdowns (John Daly, anyone?), there's not much more I can add other than to point out that poor taste does not justify censorship or retaliation.

I was a graduate student at Penn from 1987-1992, and I'll admit I was largely distanced from events. I thought Penn's administration was being foolish, but that struck me as all too common those days (when Penn's real-estate department tried to close House of Our Own Books until a faculty uproar). I didn't know Alan Kors (the primary opponent of speech codes at Penn) because I'm an Americanist, he's a Europeanist, and Penn's history faculty is large enough that I didn't take courses from all the Americanists, let alone others (other than Lynn Hunt and Dain Borges). Sheldon Hackney was president of the university at the time, before becoming head of the NEH under Clinton. Now he's back as a member of the history department. Not eliminating the speech code quickly was one of Hackney's worst mistakes as university president, and I hope he's learned enough to be on the right side this time (and to speak up).

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Posted in Academic freedom at 12:00 PM (Permalink) |