Common Core

by laurafrombaltimore

In the interest of setting things off, here are two hot-button issues rolled into one: Trump and Common Core.

Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand Common Core (and Neither Do His Rivals)

OK, really, I was more interested in the discussion of Common Core, because the description here fits my experience: there is a huge difference between what Common Core is and what people think it is.

Example: as seems to happen every spring, DD went into one of her periodic grade spirals, and so we did the standard swoop-and-poop (our deal is that she can handle her work on her own, as long as she’s actually handling her work; when she doesn’t, she gets to do it our way). During the discussion of why her math grade went from a 90-something to a 70-something, she exploded about her frustrations with Common Core. ??? Hunh? What does a 14-yr-old know about Common Core?

The answer is that DD had head this from her math teacher. He is having them work in groups, because Common Core “requires” student-led learning, where they all work together to figure out how to approach problems and get to the answer; the teacher explained that he is allowed to ask questions but cannot give them the answers when they get stuck. And DD’s entire group basically cratered on one particular chapter (so, what, I am supposed to be happy that she got a 70-something when the others in her group got a 30-something?).

We had a little re-education of our own at home that night, explaining that Common Core is just the standards kids need to understand. The Board of Ed is the one that determines whatever dumb-@$$ method-du-jour the teachers need to use to get there.

What do you think about Common Core? Have your districts made changes in their teaching methods in an effort to achieve the Common Core standards?

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147 thoughts on “Common Core

  1. Va didn’t adopt CC but has its own standards of learning. I like the idea in theory. Will have to report back about it in practice. Allegedly it is better for the kids to have the standards the whole way through. Harder to start mid-elementary, so we’ll see. I predict that the math part will likely make me lose my mind, but I am trying to be open-minded.

  2. We have adopted Common Core and I do like the idea in theory. The only problem I’ve seen is that they keep switching what method they’re using. DD’s school has been using Everyday Math since 1st grade (I think it was something else in K) but we just got an e-mail that the school may be switching to Eureka Math next year (but they’re not 100% sure yet but just in case here is a website to peruse to get used to it). And all of the local preschools use Everyday Math so I suppose then they will switch to accommodate whatever the local ES is doing. Everyday Math is not my favorite but I think it’s confusing to keep switching.

    I was listening to Ben Carson endorse Trump a few weeks ago in the car because it was on CNBC and he was going on and on about how he’s going to have a role for Carson “in education”. And someone asked the obvious question of what role since Trump doesn’t see a role for the federal gov’t in education. It made me want to cry and laugh at the same time.

  3. We don’t have CC, but I’ve been generally satisfied with my children’s education. We had to supplement math and science education in elementary school, but now that the kids are older, they are back on track with standard lessons (i.e. real math and regularly held science classes).

    Good news–after years of sucky elementary school Spanish classes, DS2 finally has a good Spanish teacher (7th grade) and really likes the class.

  4. Cat – we’ve been supplementing with Khan Academy math. Go Math as implemented in my kids’ NYC public school is at times developmentally inappropriate (particularly for younger grades) and/or slowly paced.

    For ELA, the seems to be a ton of writing, but in a very formulaic way, which can be good and bad. My boys hate it. Their teacher is very concerned they’re going to blow their ELA exams because they hate it even though they are perfectly capable of getting high scores. Their teachers over the years have supplemented the curriculum with grammar and spelling lessons and worksheets.

    They’re too young for me to see what impact CC has had on science, social studies and other subjects.

  5. Kids are at private school, where Common Core has been well executed. There is no student led learning, like the kind LfB describes. In fact, the elementary school principal said that they were back to teaching Math the old fashioned way (they got rid of Everyday Math).
    My younger kid is definitely learning subjects at a higher level than older kid did, so the standard has been raised. There are age appropriate tests and quizzes. The older kid now has group projects and those project grades have not been that good, he will have to find a way to do better.

  6. A bit off topic, but our ES has started a language immersion program in Spanish that you have to sign up for in K and commit to. I was chatting with a neighborhood friend who has twins who will be starting K next year and she was unsure whether to sign them up for this because as they’re learning to read/write/do math, etc. they will be learning some of those lessons in Spanish. I’m hoping that she does sign them up so I can hear her perspective before DS goes to kindergarten. Has anyone else done a language immersion program in ES?

  7. NY state adopted Common Core. I don’t think the problem is the Common Core, but the tests associated with measuring how well students understand ELA and Math in grades 3 to 8 are a problem.

    Pearson really did a horrible job with the tests, and they weren’t developed by educators or age appropriate. NY is trying to fix this by dumping Pearson and temporarily stopping the evaluation of teachers from the results of test scores.

    I think the material is challenging, and I do think it does create a higher standard for analytical thinking and writing.

    I just wish the rollout and testing were handled differently because they’ve been lumped together in certain states. I feel like the tests have poisoned common core, and there are really some great standards in the common core.

  8. I couldn’t tell you what “brand” of math my kids do, but it seems pretty normal to me. For example, I was a bit worried that when we went over multiplying two two-digit numbers, my old method of carrying the tens digit and adding it afterward was going to be antiquated, but we went right along.

    I do notice that they do fewer worksheets for repetition and mastery, and more sheets of somewhat random word problems. That’s good and bad. I definitely see where it forces a deeper comprehension of the process, but I think that, without parental prodding, they might be losing the instantaneous recall that 9*7=63, no thinking about it in your head, no rationalizing that, well, 10*7 = 70, and this is one less 7, and 70-7=63…. So I’m going to check that at the end of the year, and we’ll use the summer, if necessary, to get up to par.

  9. There are quite a few immersion programs for elementary school around here. I wouldn’t do them because they teach math and science in the foreign language and I would be too worried my kids wouldn’t understand them sufficently. But that is probably my bias that math/science are more important than language fluency. A lot of people drop out of the program after a couple years if the parents are not native speakers/they don’t speak the language at home.

  10. Cat – that was my concern as well with the language immersion. They teach math and science in Spanish. And it sounded like it was way more work for the kids outside of school (and therefore the parents) which I don’t agree w/in K. And I took French so I will be of no help. DH took Spanish but he’s not great with languages.

    Milo – my daughter is doing her multiplication facts right now. Every week they go up a # so DD has a test on her 8’s today (and I totally forgot to have my dad who is visiting quiz her on their walk to school this a.m.) I got a little worried about the fact that when I asked her what 8 x 3 was last night she couldn’t rattle it off easily since she already has done her 3s so memorization has its limits.

  11. Through the Math changes, kids school stuck to mastery of Math facts. They did a lot of practice at school but warned parents to continue to practice at home.
    Atlanta – we have language immersion magnets here, all subjects are taught in that language. English is the second language. The parents seem to be happy and the kids are fluent the language chosen.

  12. My biggest issue with common core is that you’re stuck with grade level standards regardless of your academic achievement. This hurts kids at both extremes. I like the emphasis on summarizing facts in informational essays but I don’t like the fact that adding background information is at best “iffy” and at worst “forbidden”, especially since the essays are often one-sided views of topics like global warming. The idea is that not relying on background information that individual students may or may not have levels the playing field. For example, early elementary grade science standards teach that there are three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas, but DS1 already knew about plasma and so wrote about how the article was wrong, because there are actually four states of matter. He would probably “not meet” expectations, but I don’t really care.

  13. I agree with Milo! 9*7=63 should be instantaneous! No rationalizing! Math is not my strong suit, but I do have instant recollection of multiples upto 12. I wish it was better! My kid will certainly be learning that too although we won’t be dealing with it for a few more years. In the meanwhile, I am reading the thread with interest.

  14. ATM, My district had a very unusual meeting this week. The BOE, teachers union, superintendents, and curriculum leaders hosted a very honest panel about state tests. The teachers are pushing opt out this year. My district historically has very high participation rates.

    The administration is encouraging kids to bring books because they will have to sit and wait until everyone finishes.
    My opinion about untimed tests is the same one I have about everyone gets a trophy.

    They should fix the actual test, measure performance in a timed environment and move on.

    They need to get politics and threats about state funding out of education reform.

  15. I would put my kids in a language immersion program, if there was one available. We actually talked about moving in order to enroll in a neighboring district’s Spanish program. The problem there was that only about one third of the students who apply get in, so we might have moved for no reason ( though that hasn’t stopped us much before).

    A friend’s mom teaches at a low quality school that had a language immersion program that was attracting students from around the district. They have stopped their language immersion program because they felt like they could not keep up with common core standards. I’m not sure if that is an excuse or a valid concern. I think, realistically, if you prioritize your child being fluent in another language, you have to realize that something is going to suffer.

    In my own experience, the local school removed one recess this year and cited the common core as the cause. They were not meeting standards and felt they needed to spend more time on instruction. My daughter’s teacher also spent most of her time doing ela and math, to the point that in one semester they had not completed a single science or social studies unit. This was also due to “common core”, but the real problem was the need to bring up test scores. Since my child tests quite well, her time in school was tedious and wasted. Mid first grade, they were working on doubling numbers one through six. Every day for a week.

    Anyway, in short, the problem is testing. Common core facilitates testing, but is not the problem in itself.

  16. No CC, and I’m not completely confident in my son’s math/science education. He is doing well, but not working very hard. I think because of the demographics, the school recognizes that many students don’t get any help at home, so in the non-AP courses they just don’t seem to be particularly rigorous. My son is supplementing with Kahn academy because he cares about the math portion of the SAT. If he had planned to go into a STEM major, I would be worried about his physics. With his current plans, I guess it won’t matter how much physics he’s mastered, but science has always been his favorite subject so it’s a little disappointing.

    At a conceptual level, I agree with the idea behind CC. All of the criticisms I read of it seem to be focused on how it’s being implemented, which sounds like a local problem to me, rather than CC. For families who move a lot, I would think it would be beneficial to have 6th grade math relatively consistent wherever you live.

  17. Around here, it seems that Common Core is the excuse for both low test scores and every harebrained scheme to get the teachers out of working. So far this year, Common Core requires that the high school kids take group tests in math and write group essays in AP English. Common Core may prevent the junior high from leveling the math classes so that the kids who are on track to take the equivalent of Algebra 1 in 8th grade will have to repeat the math they took in 7th grade.

  18. Regarding testing….the new state testing standards (which may be part of Common Core) require testing in 3rd – 8th grade and testing of high school juniors. The testing takes place at the same time as the AP testing.

    As a semi rational person, last year, I had my junior not take the state tests because there was no benefit to her and a non trivial cost. Apparently, a large amount of the college bound juniors did the same thing. The school was not happy. It was not an organized protest, just people looking at costs and benefits to their kid and choosing the best option for the kid.

  19. “The administration is encouraging kids to bring books ”

    Our principal told us that kids were not allowed to bring in other materials. They must just sit there. For kids who finish early, they must stay until the last kid is done. The principal had no idea how they were going to deal with lunch. So long as a kid is diligently working, they can take as long as they want. It looks like a nightmare.

    The principal also told us that if you opted out, all that meant was that you took a different test on a different day.

    My kids will take the tests with their teacher, who I trust to manage the classroom. Plus my kids are only in 3rd grade, so who cares.

    The whole process is bizarre.

    “They should fix the actual test, measure performance in a timed environment and move on. ” ITA

  20. Our schools used Common Core as an excuse to invent our own math program.

    No textbooks! No grouping! No prior use anywhere because we made it up! Woohoo!

    Parents now start every meeting about curriculum by begging for math textbooks. People don’t even care what the textbooks are anymore, as long as there is something somewhere that might explain the strategy the kid is supposed to use to regroup.

    After we got the iReady math results which did not explain whether the kid had mastered subtraction or not, I bought several levels of old Singapore math texts, workbooks, and instructor guides. We will do next year’s math in July.

    And when I find the bureaucrat who decided that my kids should have to spend their elementary years explaining basic arithmetic to other kids who don’t get it instead of grouping math or at least letting them work alone – and in most cases the others just want my kids to do the group project alone and quit telling them how to multiply two digit numbers – I’m going to sentence them to 180 hours * 9 years of turning small rocks into smaller rocks.

    OK, Rhett, now you can tell me how this group work will someday help them in the workplace :)

  21. The rollout in NY was absolutely tone deaf, especially the way Cuomo inserted the hot button issue of teacher evaluation into the whole package. That was guaranteed to get the teachers up and hopping, and it suceeded. I sometimes think Cuomo secretly wanted to torpedo Common Core. I like Cuomo less and less as we go.

    That being said, CommonCore has been really beneficial in our district. They got rid of a lot of stuff that wasn’t contributing to education, especially the huge amount of time wasted on art projects that mainly the moms did for the kids. They finally adopted a coherent math program. When DS1 started, there was no math curriculum – teachers just made it up – and he spent his whole first grade year drawing pictures of the “addition fact of the day” – 2+3 one day, 2 + 4 the next, and so on. NYS standards in math at the time were just appallingly low – for kindergarten, by the end of the year, the standard said the kids would be able to count to 20, so that is all the teacher really cared about. My DD, coming along 6 years later, had gotten an infinitely better math curriculum. However, they are supposed to be doing MASTERY learning in math – the superintendant claims that anyway – but often the teacher rushes along when the kids have only learned a concept at the most shallow level. So we end up spending time at home making sure she really got it. That is contrary to the idea in Common Core of deep understanding of math concepts, but I don’t think her teacher would know deep understanding if it bit her

    The bus stop moms are totally up in arms about Common Core because they want the art projects back. They all moan about the tests, which baffles me because the tests are low stakes for the kids. There are no consequences. The bus stop moms do not have middle school kids so they don’t know about the high stakes tracking that will hit in 8th grade – I wonder if they will be as horrified by that as by the loss of the art projects, or if they will just shrug

  22. My neighbors with kids in public school have moved their kids to the IB magnet program in middle school. I am pretty certain, it is to get out of time spent in test preparation for End of Grade tests. The magnet IB seems to attract Totebaggy families. Once the kids are in, they continue on the IB track till high school. Here significant switching took place on entry to middle school.

  23. Also, the opt out bullies are at it again. Last year, they really upset my DD because she kept hearing from their kids that she was messing everything up by taking the tests. This year, I already received email blasted out to all the 4th grade parents telling us to opt out. I replied to the entire list saying that I believed in the tests and that my kids would not be opting out. And that got things going- a lot of the people who received the email were against the opt out movement and said so.

    The teachers tell the kids they are supposed to be highly stressed by these tests, and that is why they feel stressed, not because the tests are inherently high stress. For elementary school kids here, the tests have no consequences. So I tell my kids to relax and have fun. And they do.

    One other thing – my kids spent just as much time in state tests before Common Core. It is just that the tests were set at lower standards. My oldest described the older tests as more boring, and he had to spend more time waiting for everyone else to finish.

  24. I am glad my kids are not/were not subject to common core.

    Lauren/MM – I’m surprised I have not heard of the very high performing suburban districts around here trying for a permanent exemption of common core or trying to get that exemption established, like there is for Regents tests. My kids’ school is one of the 13 or so in the state that’s exempt from regents and that list includes a neighboring public HS.

    BTW if my kids were subject to common core, my response would be “take the f*****g test.” There’s no downside for the kid.

  25. We use Everyday Math. So far I don’t have a problem with it. My DD thought it was hilarious that I was carrying the 1 when adding multiple digits. And the other night I was helping her on a practice test and didn’t understand what one of the question was asking (something like what is the rule, and explain how you know). She seemed to understand it without a problem. I can tell that they are using elements of other subjects and so far she seems to follow the rationalization of real life examples. She already receives extra help in math so it moving along at a great pace for her. I’ve mentioned before the teacher provides extra challenge worksheets for those that need a faster pace.

  26. Our state has its own standards. DD#1 andDD#2 private middle school did some cooperative learning. DD#1’s private high school is adopting some CC elements. I hear most about it from her regarding the “reason things out” in math. About every two weeks they are give “real world” math problems (how much flooring is need for you odd shaped living room and after incorporating waste, how much do you need to buy) that can include any and all math you have learned up to that week. While the kids groan about this A LOT, I think it is because most of them weren’t exposed to this kind of thinking earlier on. My experience is that you face these kids of problems more often than someone handing you a paper and saying solve this equation.

    DD#2 starts high school next year and has chosen an IB program at a public school. This will be our first foray into the public school process. Thankfully, I have two friends with children at the school who will be juniors and seniors next year. I will be looking to them for guidance!

    The STARR testing (state testing) has mixed reviews – it is only for certain courses in certain high school courses. It is to be an end of course exam. If your teacher taught you the curriculum, you should pass easily, in theory. Historically, better high schools have much better passing rates while historically poor performing schools have lower passing rates.

  27. Lemon – I’ve found my kids can do a lot of addition/substraction in their heads without resorting to the carrying method. More so than I remember doing at their age.

  28. On immersion schools – we debated at length about sending our DD to one. It is a lottery and only about 25% of those who apply get accepted. In the end we felt that it wouldn’t be the best fit for us and our DD’s learning style. I have many friends that send their children to one and they love it. The parents will admit that it does require more of their effort after school for English reading. By third grade reading levels are on par with the non-immersion schools. The one thing I’ve noticed is that the satisfaction among teachers varies greatly compared to the other schools, but I only know a few parents who have pulled their kids out. Most have stuck with it and love it. My observation is that kids that have learning disabilities seem to have a harder time adjusting to the program.

  29. “Also, the opt out bullies are at it again.”

    I live in a much more conservative area than you do. I’d be considered center-left here. So why is it that no parents I can think of would ever push this opt out defiance, yet it’s all over the most progressive districts, from parents who consistently vote for as much government as possible. Is it an “My kids are above the rules” mentality?

  30. We have Common Core, but IIRC the MA standards were already higher than Common Core before it was implemented. They do a lot of “how to” and persuasive writing, which I would have hated when I was a kid but my kids seem to like fine. (Sample ‘book’ from the kindergartner: “How To Poop.” I am not making this up!) I am glad that both kids are old for their grade, bc the amount of butt-in-seat learning time is WAY more than DH or I had at that age.

    Milo, I notice the same thing re: not memorizing math facts. Time for the flash cards this summer!

  31. Meant to add – our kids also do the Russian School of Math, which is GREAT according to DH and teaches them really advanced techniques – the 2nd grade class is already learning how to “solve for X”.

  32. Our district has a number of immersion elementary and middle schools. Many of those kids then attend the private high schools that mine attend. Because they go to speaking the language one hour a day, they report that by senior year they have lost much of their fluency. They are much more fluent than the kids who just took the language as a regular class, but no where near truly fluent. Something to keep in mind if you consider an immersion program. Also, they tend not to test into the top accelerated math/science tracks at the high schools (admission by test only), but it’s a small enough sample size that it’s not reliable data.

  33. Also, our state has a free online high school. But if you take even one class, you have to do the full three days of state wide testing, even if your home school is exempt. So when DS needed an online class to meet a prerequisite for a class at school he wanted to take, we had to pay $$$ for him to take it elsewhere.

  34. Back in The Day, our public elementary school math curriculum included lessons in other bases. So, we would have homework problems in base 6 with which our parents could provide no help; my parents, who had learned math at the hands of nuns with rulers, were absolutely mystified. I thought it was pretty cool at the time, but in retrospect it was absurd to introduce that concept before students have mastered basic math facts in base 10. We were also guinea pigs in the grand experiment of open classes and “relevant” English courses featuring trendy, banal 1970s literature.
    Our kids went to public and private schools over the years, but our best overall curriculum experience was at the classic great books school two of them graduated from. In high school, they studied Latin; read the entire Bible, the Communist Manifesto, The Brothers K, and other classic works; had two full years of physics and calculus; and learned Matlab. The school is operated on a shoestring and mostly fad-free. To be eligible for state vouchers, they did have to agree to administer state standardized tests in several grades, but there was virtually no preparation for them and there were no silly school-wide pep rallies such as we experienced before the SOL tests in Virginia.
    It’s so unfortunate that public schools still can’t figure out how to teach students to read good books and do lots of math problems. It is really not that hard, and think of the resources that could be saved and directed towards the special needs population and learning about recycling.

  35. Our kids went to a Spanish immersion daycare from 12 weeks to 5 years. They definitely understood what their teachers were telling them and could follow Spanish instruction. We noticed that they will talk to their teachers who speak only Spanish in Spanish, but won’t speak Spanish to native English speakers. A lot of the kids are now going to Spanish immersion elementary schools. Most everyone seems happy with it, but they are all in kindergarten through 2nd grade, so I’m not sure of any issues with math/science. The waitlist for the school is one of the highest in the city. Prior to implementing Spanish immersion it wasn’t a desirable school. I think the Spanish immersion has been good for the native Spanish speaking kids too as they aren’t as behind starting out.

    Although we felt that our kids would have gotten a good education in public school, we decided to enroll in private school. The conversations on this blog make me glad that I am. We chose private school for a few reasons one of which was fewer tests and not having to follow Common Core.

    I’ve discovered that I’m really not a helicopter parent when it comes to education. Fortunately, I don’t feel that I need to step in much right now (oldest is in kindergarten). I think I would have to be much more aware if we were in the public school about what they were/weren’t learning. Going back to the milestone/baby topics, I’m less concerned now about when my kids start reading as I know they are going to get there eventually. I think I taught myself to read around the age of 3. DH didn’t start reading until first grade or so. DH is much smarter than me. It helps me to remember our backgrounds when looking at reading milestones. Also, we had been considering a Waldorf school and they pretty much don’t introduce reading or books until around age 7. Our local elementary school pushes for all kids to know how to read by the end of kindergarten.

  36. “Our kids went to a Spanish immersion daycare from 12 weeks to 5 years.”

    Our friends’ nanny provides the same service.

  37. @Milo – we know people who have nannies providing bilingual exposure. I think it is great to have the bilingual exposure however you can get it.

    We chose our daycare for many reasons and the Spanish-immersion part wasn’t one of them, but we’re very glad that they have it. We’ve been extremely happy with the care our kids have received. I’m going to be sad when our younger one is done this year. The center has been a large part of our lives for several years.

  38. Scarlett said “We were also guinea pigs in the grand experiment of open classes and “relevant” English courses featuring trendy, banal 1970s literature.”

    That was totally my 70’s school experience too, at least when in the US. The 70’s really hit the bottom of American educational standards. Things have slowly moved up since then.

    I will argue for the base 6, though. We did that in Germany. I think it actually helped us to understand base 10. They stopped teaching that (although I think it is back with CC), and I regularly deal with students who truly do not understand place value, which is a problem when you need to teach binary.

  39. Milo wants to know “So why is it that no parents I can think of would ever push this opt out defiance, yet it’s all over the most progressive districts, from parents who consistently vote for as much government as possible. Is it an “My kids are above the rules” mentality?”

    Our district is not all that left leaning. Moderate conservative candidates do very well. here. And the opt out crowd here tends to be politically mixed. We have a lot of teachers living here, teachers who work in other districts or NYC, and they obviously drive a lot of the opt out movement. We also have a lot of people who run small businesses – body shops, pizzerias, contracting businesses – and they tend to also complain a lot about CC. These are people who grew up here and want everything to be the same. The parents who do not opt out seem overwhelmingly to be the new professional class that is moving in.

    Last year the published the stats on opt out rates by district. There was a fascinating split. The districts with the lowest opt out rates were the poorest districts, and the wealthiest ones. The opt out movement was strongest in more middle class districts.

  40. Milo – that was funny!

    Tcmama – my oldest didn’t know how to read going into Kindergarten so her teacher said she almost needed an early intervention plan after they tested them all that fall. She caught up fine but I was a little annoyed that there was an expectation that they be reading going into K.

    I’m leaning towards no on the immersion but I have another year to decide. Kids get 3 days a week of French in the regular K classes. The way the immersion part is working it is there will be up to two (depending on interest) immersion classes and the other 5 or 6 classes will be regular K.

    I see the opt out movement all over my Facebook feed and it mostly seems to be the DC and NY metro areas. This will be the first year my oldest will take the test (they implemented the new one last year). I don’t think at this age she cares. She seemed much more miffed last year as a second grader because “everyone else has to be so quiet all of the time during testing.”

  41. Being in private school, CC implementation isn’t really an issue. As a parent, I like looking at the standards every once in awhile to make sure what my 2nd grader is learning is in line or better than the expectations for his peers at public school.

    Some of the curriculum issues were there before CC. In our large public district, it has seemed that the chose of curriculum and associated consulting services changed based on what the friends of the Mayor or School Chief was pushing that year. Case in point – our former schools CEO who is currently being prosecuted for taking bribes. This is just the instance where someone was caught. I remember going to an elementary school presentation at a highly rated, highly sought-after school in our district where the principal talked about how they implemented Steven Covey’s Highly Effective Habits in the Kindergarten classroom & I thought it was a joke. It was not. I believe that has since been abandoned for the latest flavor of the year.

    That is one of the things that we liked about Montessori. The curriculum doesn’t really change from year to year on the whims of the administration, although there are occasional debates about how to incorporate technology, etc.

  42. There are no state tests in NY state for high school students except for a NY state subject matter exam called a Regents exam. Some kids will obviously take APs, but there are state wide ELA and Math tests are given annually in grades 3 – 8. Science is in grades 4 and 8.

    Fred, my Superintendent made it very clear that you opt out of the state ELA, Math, Field and Science tests. She said if can NOT opt out of Regents exams. You must take a minimum number of Regents exams to receive a diploma. My district no longer offers a Regents diploma because they make our students take the bare minimum number of Regents to graduate.

    I don’t have as much of a problem with Regents exams. They’re created by educators, and the HS teachers have a chance to look at the questions that kids had trouble with, or missed in high numbers. Our teachers said they support the Regents exams because they’re fair – except for the new Algebra regents that was based on the CC. The state is supposedly working on fixing the problems with math regents, but at least those exams are just for NY state curriculum. It isn’t created by some corporation based in the UK etc.

    I am not going to opt out my kid because I think Albany got the message. I happen to have a kid that doesn’t get freaked by tests, so I am going to have her take it. I think kids should understand how to sit and fill in circles, pace themselves etc.

    ATM – your principal sounds mean. Our district is going to have kids that “refuse” the test sit together in the auditorium. They are asking you to opt out by March 30to insure they have adequate staff, and they said if too many kids choose to opt out – then they will ask people to send in those kids at 11 instead of 8.

    They admitted they have no idea how many kids will sit there for hours, but they are hoping that younger kids won’t have the stamina to sit there. They think the kids will want to go to lunch and recess. Plus, scores matter in NYC for placement into middle school. In the many of the burbs, the scores really don’t matter unless you need support services.

  43. Count me in on the bus stop mommies pushing for more art projects and less testing. I truly believe that elementary school should be a time of joy and exploration. We have no evidence to suggest that the early, heavy emphasis on reading does anything to promote college readiness, or graduation rates, or any other significant goal.

    The school removed my daughter from allowed one field trip per grade per year, did not encourage teachers to have guest speakers, or other experiential learning. Full weeks were spent on testing, pretesting to identify the kids who need help with the testing, and other specific test prep.

    In the neighboring district, a friend’s husband just announced that he will be leaving teaching, likely permanently. He is a well-loved elementary school teacher, in a high-performing school, who feels like his hands are tied by common core expectations and his principal. He states that he has been reprimanded for taking too many field trips (one per month for third-graders), and for working on projects in the classroom when the principal has unexpectedly dropped by ( instead of quiet, sit at desk learning).

  44. Lauren, the state tests have no bearing on 504 plans or IEPs. That is why my middle kid is on an IEP and also can score at the top level on the state tests. The state tests are also not used for honors placement, though I think they should be used as an alternative assessement (not the only one of course) to our current draconian placement process.

  45. “I regularly deal with students who truly do not understand place value, which is a problem when you need to teach binary.”

    Do you suppose that average students had difficulty understanding place value back BEFORE our day when schools had to make do with base 10?

  46. Lauren – I don’t think its the principal, I think its the NYC DOE. He’s struggling to implement their ridiculous rules.

    The bus stop mommies/progressive crowd here wants the schools to stop teaching to a test and to teach a range of subject in some depth, not just math and ELA. That I agree with, just not to the point of pulling my kids from taking the test. They should get used to taking tests, its part of life. For the past few weeks they’re homework has been in the style of the test questions and other subjects are getting short shrift.

    Scores matter moreso for 4th grade and above and we’ll likely go private for MS in any event. Heck I made my kids take extra independent school testing to try and switch them to private next year. I’d bet those tests were harder than the NYS 3rd grade math/ELA tests. We showed up, they took the tests – no stress, no prep. They were fine.

  47. Scarlett, my current college students have only ever seen base 10. The schools abandoned the teaching of binary or hex systems sometime back in the 90’s. These students do not get base 10 at all. They memorized the rules about borrowing and carrying, but have no idea why they do this.

  48. “They memorized the rules about borrowing and carrying, but have no idea why they do this.”

    That’s why they so strongly emphasize the visual image of the sticks of 10 individual cubes fused together to form a number in the tens place, etc.

  49. “They memorized the rules about borrowing and carrying, but have no idea why they do this.”

    Is that the fault of the curriculum, the quality of their teachers, or their own failure to engage? It’s been our experience in different school systems that the concept of place value is still very much part of the curriculum, much more so than the rote memorization you describe.

  50. Do you suppose that average students had difficulty understanding place value back BEFORE our day when schools had to make do with base 10?

    My-sister-the-special-ed-teacher used to say that subtraction and borrowing was one of the things that some kids just completely stall out on. She was dealing with anything from mild learning disabilities to severely challenged kids, but subtraction tripped up a huge number of kids.

  51. My younger kid has a much better understanding of the “why” because like Milo mentions there were the visuals used which are easy to understand. They also do memorization but the hybrid approach really works. I think it helps with understanding how to tackle word problems.

  52. Mooshi, the state test scores are the direct placement into AIS. If you need AIS, and you opt out your kid… ..you have to wait to see if there is space to get AIS services. Many kids don’t have 504s or IEPs, but they qualify for ELA or Math AIS.

    The state sets the cutoff every year, but all 1’s qualify. Depending on the results, there will be a cutoff somewhere in the low 2s for automatic qualification for additional support services with a teacher. It also influences placement into co taught in my district.

    My district actually does use the child’s standardized math scores for placement into honors math and science in MS. It’s just one of 9 or 10 criteria, so it doesn’t usually matter unless you get a 4.

  53. RMS, kids with special learning needs will often need an approach different than the one that works for the vast majority of students. And I remember subtraction being a more difficult concept than addition, even with visual props (for some reason, they were always apples). But I’m not convinced that because SOME kids struggle with the traditional approach, the schools should abandon it for everyone else.

    If I had young kids now, I would definitely be looking at Montessori schools, even though they are often pricey (and in the DC area required enrollment at age 2 1/2 to get a spot for kindergarten).

  54. But I’m not convinced that because SOME kids struggle with the traditional approach, the schools should abandon it for everyone else.

    Oh, sure. I was just commenting on it being a hurdle.

  55. Lauren, I wonder if you could email me with a copy of your district’s placement criteria for 8th grade? I am trying to collect what our neighbor districts do. I seriously want to advocate for changing our policy. It is so unfair to so many kids.

  56. Since it is a school topic…my youngest’s English teacher strikes again.

    The kids have a poetry project that involves reading poems, analyzing poems, writing poems, analyzing a song, pretty standard stuff. Monday, she tells the classes that they have to sing the song they are analyzing in front of their class. Yesterday, she tells the classes that they can come up with reasons why they should have to sing. So, each class puts together a presentation of the reasons why they shouldn’t have to do this. She tells the classes their reasons are invalid. Meanwhile, parents are communicating behind the scenes on the assignment.

    As a side note, DD has a speech impediment and this sort of assignment is obliquely addressed in his 504. After a couple hours of drama/angst, reassuring DS that 504 accommodations are confidential and that he does not need to humiliate himself in front of his class.

    So, sent an email to the teacher reminding her of DS’s accommodations, and get an email back saying that the singing assignment was a joke.

    Very funny, because I didn’t have enough drama and stress in my life, so nice of her to introduce some more.

  57. Sometimes one of my kids will bring home a worksheet and, after reading the written instructions, I’ll be forced to cross out a “who” and replace it with “whom,” or a “was” with a “were.” These are not written by the teacher, but are re-prints from some textbook or curriculum, so I don’t feel like I’m insulting anyone. But I always think of Scarlett when I do it.

  58. Oh good, an English teacher who’s a comedian. Just what everyone needs.

  59. They memorized the rules about borrowing and carrying, but have no idea why they do this.

    Is that what you mean by a concept? You use that term a lot and I’m not quite sure I understand what you mean by it.

  60. “Any advice on how to motivate your kids to do their best and yet not stress them out about a test?”

    Does the test have any relevance to them?

  61. ATM: We just tell them to do their best, and we celebrate the completion of a major exam with a special dinner, ice cream, etc. We try and keep it as low key as possible.

  62. I dislike my kid’s English teacher. She had the kids take an exam on the first day of class to understand the capabilities of the class. Cool. She took those preliminary placement exams as formal test grades, so the kids got dinged for not knowing material that they had never been taught. Not cool.

  63. It’s the ‘living up to your potential’ part that I’m struggling with. I know my kid can get a 4 (out of 4) and if he gets a 2 I’m going to be annoyed. I want him to take the test seriously no matter how much he hates the subject.

    OTOH I don’t want him to be stressed out about test taking.

    We won’t actually get the results for months either.

  64. Milo, I didn’t realize that I had revealed my grammar Nazi tendencies on this board….

  65. [there are no spoilers here]

    You know what DW and I noticed about House of Cards? I don’t think there’s any other show that so completely deemphasizes food and eating. (Compare it to the Sopranos for the opposite extreme.)

    The only prominent exception was Freddy’s ribs. Otherwise, you might see Frank making himself a peanut butter sandwich at night. After a war-room meeting, he calls and requests a Cobb salad. At breakfast, he is cutting a single apple to be shared between him, Claire, and the author/speechwriter. Nobody is ever snacking. They never seem to discuss anything over an actual meal, even though they do often use the kitchen for late-night discussions.

  66. Scarlett – You’d said that there was once a letter sent home by the principal, to whom you anonymously returned a copy with corrections. That was one of those TB stories that stuck with me.

  67. ATM – I would make sure that they do go over the material and know it. They may have covered it at school but to my mind if I am expecting a 4, I just need to make sure they are prepared enough to get a 4. They may be capable of a 4 but being prepared for a test is different from being capable. (I hope I am making sense).

  68. ATM,

    Not sure it is possible to motivate kids to perform well on anything without some stress. At some point, the tests they take WILL matter, and they will have to find a way to cope with the stress. You could treat these non-consequential tests as practice for the ones that count, always making sure that you help them understand that their self-worth is not reflected in any test score.

  69. Also, you inadvertently prompted me to learn the difference between that and which.

  70. Milo, yes, I did that.
    I have also corrected the spelling on the signs pointing out the towel receptacles at the gym, and have been sorely tempted to cover up the “less” on supermarket express lane signs with “fewer.”

  71. Any gift suggestions for a retiring principal ? Older lady, widowed, grandmother, in her post for many years. Grateful to have had her in charge, can’t think of a gift…

  72. Louise, what about something slightly personal (monogrammed beach bag and towel sort of thing) and a gift card to a nice restaurant where she could bring her family to celebrate her retirement?

  73. Giant signs say fewer not less. Of course, half of the people can’t tell when they are lit and when they are not.

    I wish people, especially lawyers, would learn the difference between e.g. and i.e. It sometimes seems to be important.

    Of course, I had to force myself to write to be. So, glass houses and all that.

  74. Louise – I understood you perfectly.

    Thanks for the advice everyone. I was such a goody two shoes and always did my best on tests, homework and projects. Having kids that don’t have the same attitude has proven challenging.

  75. Cat, http://theoatmeal.com/comics/ie . Note that a poster version is available.

    I will mentally correct communications from school or elsewhere but I wouldn’t want to make a production of it. It would send the wrong message to my kids, who don’t need me encouraging them to feel intellectually superior. I think they’ll be better off focusing on correct usage in their own speech rather than looking for others’ errors.

    I haven’t been aware of an opt-out movement here. To the contrary, I’d say there is parental support of it in the sense of making sure that kids are present, rested, fed, and so forth, as requested by the schools. There is no particular advantage for any individual kid to taking the tests, but it’s something of a civic duty to the school community.

  76. ATM: If your child is intentionally blowing off the test, I’d say that the test is a diagnostic tool that will help highlight areas in which he needs additional help (which is true). I’d assign extra homework to cover the areas in which he is weak. If he does well, he doesn’t need extra homework.

    We do this in our family, and the extra work/help is not seen as punishment, but support. We do this for standardized tests such as the SAT, as well as regular subject tests.

  77. Louise: I second Sky’s recommendation of a gift card as a gift for your retiring principal.

  78. “always did my best on tests, homework and projects. Having kids that don’t have the same attitude has proven challenging.”

    ATM – this is a difference between girls and boys, generally speaking in my experience raising 3 boys and hearing/reading about all these girls who do so well in everything at school. Clearly there are exceptions but based on what I know, your boys are just normal, a frustrating as that will be.

  79. “always did my best on tests, homework and projects. Having kids that don’t have the same attitude has proven challenging.”

    ATM – this is a difference between girls and boys, generally speaking in my experience raising 3 boys and hearing/reading about all these girls who do so well in everything at school. Clearly there are exceptions but based on what I know, your boys are just normal, a frustrating as that will be.

    Not necessarily a boy/girl thing. My second daughter will assess whether or not it is worth it to do her best. While I appreciate the value of evaluating the appropriate amount of effort, sometimes she gets the assessment wrong.

  80. Language immersion. Younger DS was in a double immersion program, Spanish-English, K though 5. It was intended to create bilingual children both ways. Located at the most economically disadvantaged school in the town. The lunch ladies would not believe us when we said we didn’t qualify for free lunch and declined to fill out the form. So they fed him anyway. The neighborhood kids were all poor.

    This was not an upscale program. But all of the parents who were native speakers of Spanish and who opted for it had sent the kids to preschool, worked in jobs where they needed to speak English, etc. The traditional programs for Spanish speaking children from homes where no one knew English were in other schools So the kids all spoke English on the playground, and the only Spanish my son got was in the half day of Spanish instruction. It did him no harm, I liked the program and teachers, but it did not achieve the objective of creating a bilingual child from English speaking homes. He did not choose to continue Spanish in middle and high school. And I told this story before, but after first grade they gave them a double dose of citywide tests both in English and Spanish. He, who had very little mastery of conversational Spanish, apparently got the highest score in the city on the Spanish one. Which proves that tests measure test taking ability as much as anything else.

  81. Mooshi, I will send you an email for MS.
    It’s not published, so I’ll write it out.
    It’s messy, and people can appeal.

  82. Computer question: Would I do any additional harm if I logged onto the Internet with my laptop that may or may not be infected with a virus?

    What happened is that after getting a window pop up alerting me that I may have a virus, I quickly shut down my laptop. When I turned it back on, my Office docs seem fine, but I’m afraid to get on the Internet in case I may do additional damage.

    Funny part is the alert came up when I clicked on a Pinterest recipe page for Knock You Naked Cookie Bars, a site I had previously visited with no problem. It made a buzzing sound, something I don’t remember encountering before. I don’t know what to think.

  83. CoC –

    Usually the pop ups are just adware trying to sell you something, or to get you to download something that does contain a virus, not alerts for an actual virus.

    If you use a Mac and haven’t purchased anti virus software (for PC’s it is mandatory, but many people don’t bother for Macs) you are probably fine. Mac viruses are very rare.

    You can run a virus scan from Norton or MacAfee or whatever antivirus program you have on your computer without logging onto the internet. Ordinarily a scan runs in the background once a week or however often you have it set, but you can gain assurance that it is okay by running a manual scan. Sometimes my husband gets a notice that something has been blocked (he has a PC, unlike me) but that does not require any action on his part – the anti virus program is doing its job.

  84. CoC, was the alert from your antivirus program or was it one of those ‘you may have a virus’ popup ads?

  85. Thanks! I have AVG antivirus program installed, and the alert was not from that. It was a generic white window.

    I guess I can run a manual scan by clicking the AVG icon on the desktop? I’ve never done that before.

  86. I get regular pop up reports from AVG telling me it ran a scan. Sometimes it’ll say it found and blocked x-number of potential problems.

    I panicked when the white generic virus alert popped up, and I just shut down the computer.

  87. I’m running a whole computer scan now using AVG. So far no threats found.

  88. We have local Spanish and Mandarin immersion programs. I believe the Spanish immersion program has about 50% native English speakers and 50% native Spanish speakers. I know several people who are pleased with the school, but the truth is that while their kids are all caught up by 3rd or 4th grade, they cover all subjects (including grammar in either language) more slowly because they are also developing fluency in another language. The Mandarin immersion program has a much higher % of students who speak Mandarin at home. The families we know who speak Mandarin at home are very happy with the program. I knew a couple of families who pulled English-spoken-at-home children out of the school because they found the dual load too intense.

    I love the Montessori math materials, and much of the rest of our district is starting to adopt them because they’ve decided that the manipulatives help them meet the requirements of CC. My beef with CC is exactly what LfB said– it’s merely the standard, NOT how to get there. But every single decision the school makes is explained as “because CC.” We’ve used Everyday Math as the district curriculum for about the past 15 years, both before and after CC. Suddenly everything everyone dislikes about he curriculum has a ready scapegoat in CC.

    Milo– We started reviewing addition and subtraction at home last summer when I realized my oldest could get the right answers, but still used her fingers. There’s just a certain amount of time spent doing the boring, repetitive practice that is needed. I anticipate we’ll do the same for multiplication, probably this summer. That said, the understanding of math she’s getting at school so far seems more solid than mine was at that age. She told me something about hearing an ad for having a chef come to your home to cook for $39 per person. I asked her how much that would cost, then, for a chef to come cook for our family of 5. She can’t multiply and carry just yet, so she did it by adding in stages, completely in her head. Then we showed her how to do the same math based on $40 and subtract the $5. I did that later, but I couldn’t have done it in 2nd grade.

  89. COC – I did the same thing last week, but it was my phone. I got a popup virus alert, freaked out, and shut my phone off. I waited until DH came home. He then laughed at me, turned my phone on and ran a manual virus check. Came back clear, so it is nothing to be worried about.

  90. CoC, try MalwareAntiBytes. I have the most success with that program.

    I sympathize with you. I have a weird suspicion that my work laptop has a virus on it, probably acquired while grading student work (I have to download it to look at it – our IT people supposedly have a scanner installed to keep viruses from entering that way, but it isn’t that great). I have tried all my tools. I can’t install MalwareAntiBytes, further making me suspect there is a virus. I fear the only solution will be for IT to wipe the laptop, sticking me with a couple of days of rebuilding my environment.

  91. MM, have you tried running SlimCleaner (or something similar) and looking at the hijack log for startup and for your browsers?

  92. CoC, I also suggest that after you run your antivirus program, you update it and run it again.

  93. “Which proves that tests measure test taking ability as much as anything else.”

    And which is, IMO, a good indicator of reasoning ability and general intelligence.

  94. “Any advice on how to motivate your kids to do their best and yet not stress them out about a test?”

    We’ve also had good success with ice cream.

  95. As far as I can tell, my kids’ school isn’t adopting CC. However, I’m afraid they will have to adopt at least some parts of it because the SAT is, apparently, trying to align itself with CC.

  96. “My biggest issue with common core is that you’re stuck with grade level standards regardless of your academic achievement. This hurts kids at both extremes.”

    On top of NCLB, which I’m guessing disproportionately hurts kids at one extreme.

    I’m wondering if CC and NCLB are pushing even more parents who can afford it to send their kids to private school. How has CC played into the public/private decision process for the totebaggery?

  97. Finn, our local private schools seem to all be doing Common Core except Waldorf, and maybe Montessori. The religious schools and independent schools are following those standards.

  98. Thank you everyone! I’m installing Malwarebytes. For now I seem to be fine, with my AVG scan reporting “whole computer scan finished one threat removed”.

  99. “I’m wondering if CC and NCLB are pushing even more parents who can afford it to send their kids to private school. How has CC played into the public/private decision process for the totebaggery?”

    Irrelevant for us, since we could never afford private. We simply have to make do.

  100. “my oldest could get the right answers, but still used her fingers”

    Yes, the comprehension of this generation is better, especially for the median kid, but the recall is worse, at least at a given age.

    Someone, maybe Finn (probably Finn), mentioned a while back about how important it is to have the basic multiplication facts at instantaneous availability when you’re dong something like FOIL in Algebra, and that point really hit home for me.

  101. Rhett, I’m in a low-cost suburban area outside of Houston, and the cheapest private elementary/middle school out this was is $9500 per year. I checked the state I came from, and the Catholic K-8 many of my friends use is $4700 per year for parishioners, $7300 for on-parishioners. The non-Catholic probates all seem to be more. In the East, I would have thought schools would be much more than the $6150 you quoted.

  102. MBT,

    I googled “best parochial school in Northern Virgian” and that’s what Viginia Magazine came up with.

  103. I’m surprised it took Rhett 21 minutes to get there.

    If you must know, my new job is really cutting into my internet surfing.

  104. Independent schools are $32-40k/year
    Parochial schools are $5-10k/year depending on school and how they handle non-Catholics and multiple children from one family (some give a discount, some don’t)

    Basis is opening a for profit school here and it is somewhere around $20k/year

  105. Ada,

    Also, I had to weigh my ultimate line for Milo: “Says the man with a boat.” But, that line needs to wait for the perfect moment.

  106. I, too, recommend MalwareBytes. I also use a free anti-virus software from Microsoft called Security Essentials.

  107. Everyone looks in the mirror each morning and is happy when looking back at him/her is a particular sort of “me”. Milo’s reflection is a regular guy, self-admittedly a bit above average in almost all aspects of life, including luck, but regular nonetheless. Others of us are happier with another sort of reflection. None of these reflections are objectively accurate to one degree or another, but they keep us going.

  108. the academically oriented private school around here would be in the range of a little under $20k. Multiplied by three, and that’s way too much. Hell, it’s too much multiplied by one.

    The best boat line was in reference to the frugal advice from Mia’s father: always buy your yachts used. Too bad she no longer graces these discussions.

  109. Multiplied by three, and that’s way too much.

    If we put you on the Finn family’s rice and Spam diet you’d be 20%-25% there.

  110. “Irrelevant for us, since we could never afford private. We simply have to make do.”

    Same here. The privates are $8K-28K, not including uniforms, donations, supplies, etc. However, I never thought of it as “making do”. We have some decent public school options. IMO, the private schools have bigger problems (wealth, social pressure, academic pressure) than the publics (poverty, poor facilities, some academic pressure).

  111. Count me in on the bus stop mommies pushing for more art projects and less testing

    My goal is no art projects and less testing.

  112. We have a ton of decent school options. It depends on the individual family and what works for them. Within the same family, I have heard of kids being at different types of schools. The younger kids may be homeschooled for a period of time. To me, an important thing is smooth logistics, that is why without a compelling reason I wouldn’t want different schools systems for each of my kids. People here don’t seem to be locked in. It is a much more fluid state of affairs than I would have thought.

  113. Milo claiming that privates aren’t an option reminds me of how WCE thinks her kids won’t have top private colleges as an option.

  114. One of the best projects I did in school was The Wine Glass Problem. We had to draw an accurate representation of a piece of stemware of our choosing, divide it in to curves, create equations for each of the curves and use those curves to figure out the volume of the glass (both the volume that it could hold as well as the volume of glass required to make the vessel). It was for high school calculus. I had to use colored pencils, and draw pictures. I had to use Calculus (perhaps for the last time in my life, as this came after the AP calc exam). I had to use some chemistry to calculate how much glass was there based on volume of water displaced and density of glass (we had to provide a second method for checking that our volume was correct).

    Good teachers can create good projects, and the art projects elementary kids do can contribute a lot to learning. It makes me sad that people want to get rid of projects, instead of wanting projects to contribute to learning. However, I sure don’t want them to be done at home and the dominion of the mommies.

  115. It’s pretty common here for private school kids to have sibs in other schools, despite most privates being coed k-12.

  116. Houston – the making do part is a little bit sardonic. We are very happy with the public school so far, truly.

    Touché about SPAM and rice.

  117. I’m with Ada on the projects. Give my kids ways to *apply* what they’re learning and they are happy, and so am I. On the flip side, please don’t send those projects home, or have the kids spend 9 years making a diorama. I completed elementary school and have zero desire to do it again.

    We’re UU/agnostic/not very religious, so the Catholic schools that included one hour a day of religious education weren’t on my list. I have many Catholic friends who adore them as options for their kids, and they do seem to be good schools. I looked at independent private schools, but many around here are $30K per year. Times three kids, that’s not something we could swing unless we wanted to sell our house, move, and stop saving for college. Barring some significant discrepancy between my kids, at this point I can’t imagine saying, “You get the education at the school that takes the senior trip to China, and you get the overwhelmed advisor who works with 400 students.” That said, we’re happy with our public school and thankful we have the money/bandwidth to supplement where we need to.

  118. As the mother of four, I can definitely imagine trying to afford private for one kid if that kid struggled in public school, especially if I thought a smaller class size (classes in our school district average ~30 across all grades) would help. We don’t have any private schools locally that I consider academically strong and they are all small schools. We thought about putting the twins in half-day private kindergarten when it looked like public schools might go to full day.

    I judge a middle school essay contest for the area and started doing that before my kids were in school. One of the perks was reading essays from different private, public and home schools. The primary variable is the child’s family.

  119. Ada, I don’t consider that to be an art project, aside from the apparent requirement that it you had to use color pencils. Things I consider art projects are a diorama to go along with a book report, a poster in a foreign language, the idiotic “curve stitching” thing I had to do in MS math, etc. Calculating the volume of a wine glass using calculus isn’t an art project.

  120. We’re friends with a family that has triplets. One of the girls has a learning disability so they have her in a private school and the other two are in public. It’s working well for all of them.

  121. Private school – LOL. Not with our new mortgage! ;) We would never do religious school, and the private schools around here are around $30K for elementary school.

    We should sign P&S agreements today. Waiting for buyers on our house to sign before we sign on both. Then I will bring the giant check to the RE office (gulp).

  122. My DD had to do a book report on a biography of Julius Caesar. Great. But she was required to present it in a Julius Caesar costume. Totally not great. She refused to show up in a bedsheet toga, so instead we spent far too long cutting Roman armor pieces out of posterboard and gluing them to a belt. And the whole thing looked totally sad. The school website posted photos of the kids in their costumes, and it was clear that many were purchased or sewn by parents. My daughter did not make it into the photos, I am sure because of her sad costume. But, other than providing photos for the website, WTF was the point of making them do this???

  123. About 50% of my college students hail from Catholic schools. Sorry, I am not impressed. They are just as illiterate and innumerate as their public school peers.

  124. OT, I set up a fish tank at Christmas, cycled it, put in some live plants, and added the fish.

    All the fish died by the next day.

    Cycled again, checked water levels, added more fish.

    More fish funerals (“Squiggy was a good fish while we had him, and now he is dead. Have fun with Jesus, Squiggy. Wait, wait, Jesus eats fish in the Bible! Come back, Squiggy!”)

    Fish gone, I left the tank set up, lights on, filter on, plants growing.

    Now I have dozens of tiny snails. I did not put in tiny snails.

    Now what? Can I get fish that eat the snails?

  125. (“Squiggy was a good fish while we had him, and now he is dead. Have fun with Jesus, Squiggy. Wait, wait, Jesus eats fish in the Bible! Come back, Squiggy!”)

    I’m sorry but this is hilarious. You made my day, Sky!

  126. The Catholic schools in our part of town range from amazing to very mediocre. The cost is directly correlated with academic quality.

  127. We have freshwater, plastic plants, and a few basic goldfish/platies. One has been with us the whole time, and a few have died and been replaced.

    So my new daydream is to imagine the trawler that DW and I are going to buy in early retirement.

    I’m liking the Beneteau Swift line:

    Total displacement hull = slow, comfortable, and VERY efficient.

    And we’re going to do the Great Loop.

  128. We will stay with public too unless there is an issue with our younger two. $25K per kid per year with three kids is a no. I think my kids will be happier with a bigger inheritance.

  129. “My second daughter will assess whether or not it is worth it to do her best. While I appreciate the value of evaluating the appropriate amount of effort, sometimes she gets the assessment wrong.”

    This is what I worry about with DS. I’m not sure that I care much at this point, but the stakes will be higher at some point, and he will assess something wrong that matters. Example – he is required to write each of his spelling words in a sentence. Every week he writes sentence like “It is a calendar. It is a refrigerator.” His teachers now don’t seem to mind, so we will see what happens when they do.

  130. Is this a salt or fresh tank? The last time I started a fresh tank, I used a living sand product and I was able to add fish the same day. If you don’t have live rock or coral, I would just get rid of the water and start over. You can probably still use the plants. I’ve had snail explosions in aquariums before, but I wouldn’t deal with one if I didn’t have anything I wanted to save in the water.

    I’ve been trying to reduce the number of things we have to feed in the mid-poop we deal with in our house. So we haven’t had a fish tank for a few years. Eldest child brought home fish from a school science project, but have been living in a spaghetti sauce jar. They also came with an aquatic plant and a few snails. I think the three living things each eat the others waste products. Anyway, every few days I dump out half of the water in the spaghetti jar and add half tap water to it. Everybody’s been alive for almost 2 months now. After years of testing water and cycling tanks, it’s shockingly easy.

  131. Sky, we set up a 20 gallon, freshwater, planted tank for DS1 about a year and a half ago for his birthday. We have two female platies and a swordtail (also female) that are the surviving fish. There were a lot of fatalities on the way. We also have 3 amano shrimp and a nerite snail. Your snails probably came in on the plants. You’ll want to get rid of them or they’ll take over.

    I put in a lot of effort at first, testing the water every week, estimating bio-loads, and trying to create a balanced tank. But someone was always dying in there. Then, one of the replacement fish caused an ick infestation, which put me off buying replacement fish and eventually we ended up with the survivors and decided to leave well enough alone. DS1 periodically asks about buying more fish, but I told him no more until the current ones die off.

  132. “They are just as illiterate and innumerate as their public school peers.”

    Well, if they were stronger students, they would probably be attending a better school. And it is possible that you are seeing public school students from the 75th percentile of their class but Catholic school students from the 60th percentile.

    Not claiming that Catholic schools are “better” than public (it is very hard to control for selection bias), but only that you cannot accurately answer that question simply by observing the graduates from both systems who end up at your college.

  133. Nah, I see their GPAs and class rank. I see a lot of admission data since I am program director. I just think there are a lot of crappy Catholic schools around, just like there are crappy public schools. The Catholic schools are afraid to flunk anyone because they are so desperate for enrollment. It is true we aren’t getting the topmost students from either type of system. Perhaps Catholic schools serve the top students better. But I don’t think they do a better job for the normal kids.
    Our typical student, btw, is a B student with a 1100 combined math/verbal on the SAT, from a NYC or NYC burbs high school. Those students, by and large, are not college ready whether they come from a public or Catholic school.

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