FunnyMonkey Blog

Bill Fitzgerald | November 24, 2013

One of my favorite places here in Portland is Tabor Bread. It's a bakery and cafe; they source all their materials locally, and bake their bread in a large wood fired oven that they designed themselves.

When the bakers make bread, they follow the entire process: they mill their own flour, mix the ingredients, knead the dough, shape the bread, set it up to proof overnight, set and light their own fire, and then, the next morning, they bake their bread. But they stay with their bread throughout their entire process. They make notes on how the structure of their fire affects cooking temperatures and the evenness of heat distribution; they observe how minor changes in ingredients, or in relative quantities, affects the bread.

Not surprisingly, the bread is amazing.

Because I spend a good portion of my days thinking about learning, I immediately begin to wonder what would happen if we applied similar care and attention to...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 23, 2013

I learned about this from Leslie Hawthorne - there is a new project underway to help mitigate the decline of the bee population.

From the Open Source Beehives Project:

The Open Source Beehives project is a collaborative response to the threat faced by bee populations in industrialised nations around the world. The project proposes to design hives that can support bee colonies in a sustainable way, to monitor and track the health and behaviour of a colony as it develops. Each hive contains an open source sensory kit, The Smart Citizen Kit (SCK), which can transmit to an open data platform:
These sensor enhanced hive designs are open and freely available online, the data collected from each hive is...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 19, 2013

Over the last few months, inBloom has been getting increasing negative attention. These troubles started almost immediately after their "official" launch in early 2013. Despite some initial adoring PR masquerading as news coverage, inBloom has consistently stumbled. Between early adopters changing their minds and losing their jobs, and a lawsuit filed against the organization in New York State, inBloom appears to have lost momentum.

Here are some facts and observations I've seen along the way:

1. inBloom implemented a pre-existing data...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 14, 2013

Update: Since I put this post out this morning, I read about a lawsuit filed that would effectively halt data sharing with the NY State portal. End update.

Earlier this week, Leonie Haimson posted a list of districts in New York State that are opting out of the data sharing program set up by the state Department of Education, and returning Race to the Top money that had been earmarked for the data sharing program. When I saw the list, I was curious about any potential patterns among districts opting out of the state-run data program.

To be clear, there are real and valid privacy concerns in the state-run data program, and John King - New York's Education Commissioner - has done little to adress these concerns.


Bill Fitzgerald | November 12, 2013

The Common Core Standards rollout increases the amount of standardized testing within schools; this has fueled a growing Opt Out movement. Some of the impetus behind opting out of tests come from within the corespiracy, while other efforts are grounded in a strong and valid concern of the effects of overtesting on children.

However, what is largely missing from the planning and advocacy in the Opt Out movement is a way to opt out that doesn't create a potentially adversarial relationship between students, parents, schools, and teachers.

No Child Left Behind created the requirement of annual report cards based on standardized tests. In many (all?)...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 11, 2013

From NY Daily News:

Not only were books delivered more than a month into the school year in some cases, but the lessons from testing and publishing giant Pearson are poorly planned, too long and full of mistakes.

The texts were needed to support the Common Core rollout in New York, and the texts - ReadyGEN from Pearson - were explicitly recommended by New York City Department of Education.

The mistakes include a third-grade workbook page on the text “The Case of the Gasping Garbage” that asks students questions about another reading entirely, a page in a kindergarten workbook printed upside down, and teachers’ manuals that simply don’t match the student texts.

On the bright side, having an error ridden workbook that includes a page titled "The Case of the Gasping Garbage...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 10, 2013

In what will likely be a long string of district-level data compromises, testing in Montclair, New Jersey was cancelled after copies of the tests were leaked online.

The breach of test security in the Montclair, N.J., school district was discovered by a parent on Friday, leading to a “full legal investigation,” said Penny MacCormack, the superintendent. She said that only “teachers and senior staff here would have password access” to the secure web portal that contains the exams.

This comes in close proximity to the reported security breach in Sachem, NY, where nearly 17,000 current and past students had their data taken from a district-controlled web portal.

District-level data...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 9, 2013

From some news reports that are light on detail, it sounds like around 17,000 students in the Sachem, NY school district had their personal data compromised.

Interestingly, the breach was first reported on July 17, 2013.

The list of names appears to have been posted on August 23 (the list has been removed).

I've taken screenshots of both pages linked above in case the posts get removed or the server goes down.

It's odd that a breach that occurred in the summer, and was reported publicly several months ago, is just getting noticed now.

This breach will likely draw additional...

Bill Fitzgerald | November 4, 2013

MetaMetrics, the company behind Lexile rankings, is now comfortably positioned as the gatekeeper for texts to be aligned with the expectations defined in the Common Core State Standards (or CCSS). MetaMetrics makes a point to emphasize this on their web site:

The Standards for English Language Arts name Lexile measures as key indicators of text complexity and provide Lexile bands for reading comprehension development by grade level to ensure students are preparing for the text demands of college and careers as they progress through school. These bands can help guide you in developing instructional resources at the appropriate ability and grade levels. They can ensure that your materials are aligned with the Standards and make them more appealing to states looking to secure new classroom resources that support college- and career-ready expectations.

Bill Fitzgerald | November 3, 2013

"Rigor" is a buzzword lurking in the periphery of some education reform conversations. As it is commonly used, "rigor" implies that the work in a learning environment is consistently challenging to students - the work is either at or just-above-yet-in-reach of a student's ability. However, most conversations about rigor carry an additional overtone: that schools currently do not contain adequate rigor, and are therefore failing to challenge students.

To be clear, the problems with the concept of rigor have nothing to do with the idea of challenging students. The problems with rigor stem from the disingenuous and flawed arguments that are built upon the foundation of, "We need more rigor."

I heart rigor

The Atlantic recently...


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