Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread for discussion on any topic.

Originally I had written today’s post about the SAT and college prep, but since we discussed that a bit in recent days it makes sense to open up today’s discussion to any topics you choose.  However, here’s the original post I wrote in case you’d still like to talk about it (and take the quiz):

Can You Answer 10 Hard-But-Not-That-Hard SAT Questions From 1926?

How did you do?  What do you think of how the SAT has changed over the years?

Let’s discuss the SAT, test prep, college prep, what we’re seeing among the kids we know, college search and selection, jobs after graduation, skipping college (gasp), myth vs. reality, anxiety or lack of it, brag, complain, etc.  Let’s ask questions and share our wisdom.

Advertisements

227 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. Please don’t groan if you’re tired of the college topic because this post is open to ANYTHING you want to discuss. Also, hint hint, send in topics.

  2. Me three!

    On the college topic – we went to a case study on holistic admissions. We were given 3 students and told we had to decide to admit one, wait list one, and decline one. We were divided into 3 groups each led by an admissions officer from a relatively nearby school. Ultimately, each of the 3 groups did not agree on which student to admit, wait list or decline. It was very interesting. Here were a few of my take aways:
    1. Find out if any of the schools you are applying to do this. Some schools do a holistic from the beginning where others do it to assign major of automatic admits.
    2. Make sure you give your references time to write a “good” letter and that you give them details about what you have done/circumstances you find yourself in, etc.
    3. Showing you have done your research about the school is important.
    4. For schools that tract “contact” it is important to have that, even if it isn’t a physical visit to the campus.

  3. “clearly I am a font of relatively useless knowledge!”

    But, no! You need background/content knowledge for critical thinking.

    The more you know, the easier it is to seek out new information, evaluate it and do something with it. And remember it.

  4. Following up on bringing my son along on a business trip:
    1. Yes overreacted a bit. I am a bit nervous about bringing him and about travel these days generally.
    2. Expedia does not let you book a child’s ticket all by itself.
    3. The folks at Delta were very helpful in helping us link my reservation/tickets to my son’s
    4. My assistant is fantastic.
    5. My boss is clueless about kids and did not realize the added complexities involved in booking the tickets separately. Much easier if your +1 is an adult.

  5. Oh, and 6. Booking my son’s ticket first and then asking my company’s travel dept. to find me a seat on the same flights worked really well. Thanks Fred/ Flynn, Rhett – sorry I forget who – for that suggestion.

  6. Fred – Am I ever calm? =)

    I really wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to bring him along but at the same time am very nervous about it. He’s a quirky kid. I don’t know how he’ll take to sitting at a desk all day, leaving me to give trainings with my colleagues, even if he does have his ipad. snacks and a book with him. He can be unpredictable.

    OTOH – this would be such a great chance to show that he’s maturing and can handle meeting strangers and exploring a new city.

    I’ll let you know how it goes!

  7. I am taking two of my 3 along to a conference next week in Seattle. I am able to do the booking myself, though, because I get reimbursed (only 50%) later on. It is a good conference for kids because they have a kid’s camp which my younger can do, and a huge tech oriented exhibit hall, with tons of freebies.

  8. 10 out of 10, though I don’t think Greece is considered to be an Eastern European country

  9. Austin, my takeaway after a season on the periphery of admissions at a selective school (20% admits) is that the process is far more random than the schools want applicants to believe. And holistic admissions is just another way to say “random” for the unhooked applicants whose numbers put them in the admissible range.
    After reading just a few dozen applications, the letters of recommendation are largely interchangeable. Top grades are a given, so much so that students can get dinged for a single B that moves them out of the top x% of the class. There isn’t time to parse the transcript to evaluate grade trends or the degrees of rigor in non AP courses. Nor is there time or the relevant info to distinguish the real awards among the chaff appearing on the common app. The essays are supposed to be critical but there isn’t enough time to read them carefully.
    And then the decisions are being made by a staff of overworked young people who lack sufficient life experience to be good snap judges of academic potential.
    If applicants and their parents regarded admissions as a lottery rather than a true measure of worth, perhaps the whole process would be less stressful.

  10. 9 out of 10, although I would argue that program, directory, schedule are as similar as encyclopedia, dictionary, directory, since directory is significantly more ephemeral than encyclopedia and dictionary

  11. Kerri, glad you got it worked out, wish I would’ve remembered the hiccup about booking a kid’s ticket alone. I hope the day at the desk goes well. Is he also taking something tactile to do during those hours, like a Spirograph or Lego kit? Enjoy your trip!

  12. “And holistic admissions is just another way to say “random” for the unhooked applicants whose numbers put them in the admissible range.”

    DS and his cohort have been observing who gets accepted where for the last few years, and one of their observations is that some schools are more predictable than others. E.g., among the most HSS, one school in particular has a track record of acceptance decisions that seem understandable (top performing kids more likely to get accepted than lower performing kids, and exceptions typically can be attributed to hooks), while another regularly makes decisions that have people scratching their heads (e.g., rejecting a kid who was considered by most to be one of two top kids of their class, while accepting a middle of the pack kid in the AP track with no obvious hook).

  13. We are in waiting season here. Waiting for college responses for DS1 and high school responses for DS2. Waiting sucks.

    DS1 got rejected from UT because he did not meet the top 7%. Is was 7.9% at time of application. He has now moved up to 6.8% and is asking for a re-review.

    With DS2, it’s a total lottery, so who knows what will happen.

  14. Took the test before more info on it landed here. I am “a test-taking god, whose knowledge transcends time”. So this blog must be Gamla Uppsala.

    Mooshi, good point about changing cultural geography and geographic regions. 50 years of wall will do that.

  15. Scarlett, I appreciate that insight. Thank you for sharing.

    I’m also 9/10, missed the last one.

    Houston – pls keep us posted!

  16. Houston, that sounds like a miserable wait.

    My college-related question: which, if any, poetry contests for high schoolers might look good on a college application?

  17. Houston, I’m wondering if it’s common in TX for the UTs to rescind acceptances for kids who let their senior grades slide, causing their GPAs to slide, IOW the flip side of your DS’ situation.

    Or does the policy of automatic acceptance for kids in the top x% class rank specifically call out rank at a certain time, e.g., up to and including 1st semester of senior year?

  18. Houston – UT does the holistic to determine major of first choice – FYI – hope the re-review gets him in!

    Scarlett – They gave us about as much time as they can spend on “average” on one review. I say that jibes with your comments. However, some of the “details/errors” that they discussed were “glaring” that even a skimmer would catch.

  19. For us, there will be testing next year. The purpose of the testing I am sure is to determine which track the student will be on. It will be AP vs. non AP most likely. I will ask the next years head of students before this year ends. The administration never wants the students to have test anxiety but at the same time, there are tests that determine track. I don’t think students are totally locked out if they are close to the cutoff.

  20. Houston, did your DS1 apply EA at any school, or apply early at any rolling admission schools? Has your DS1 received any acceptances yet, or is he going to get all of his decisions in the next few weeks?

    Given that you have DS2 following in a few years, what have you learned in DS1’s process that you would do again for DS2, and what would you do differently?

    Perhaps we can discuss this more in May.

  21. “Being perfect just lets you get a raffle ticket.”

    I agree, and that is one of the reasons that I am happy to have all of you here to learn from & observe while my kid is in elementary school.

  22. Houston, I agree with Finn. For those of you with HS seniors this year or last, what have you learned that you’d do differently when or if you go through it again.

  23. Thank you all for your kind wishes!

    What have I learned, Finn? Applying to colleges sucks. I totally hate my kids getting rejected and take it way too personally.

    DS1 has gained entrance to his “safety school”, and they are wooing him hard. I love love love this school, and would be happy for him to go there. Of course, DS has his sights set on UT. I hope he will get in–he certainly has a good chance.

  24. When your college freshman picks their classes, make sure to use rate my professor to figure out which ones to avoid.

  25. “Being perfect just lets you get a raffle ticket.”

    I disagree. For the HSS, I think a better analogy is having more ping pong balls, and I mentioned earlier, moreso at some schools than others.

    Also, being perfect in certain preferred activities (e.g., athletics) can be a hook.

    And at certain schools (albeit not the HSS), being perfect in the right things is pretty much a golden ticket. E.g., perfect PSAT/SAT scores and GPA, and no big negatives, pretty much guarantees NMF, which pretty much guarantees full tuition scholarships, or better, at a bunch of schools.

  26. Houston, I expect there are lots of places where he could be happy, but completely agree with you on watching your kid go through this.

  27. Hope it works out w/ UT, Houston!

    What I learned from DS’s college app year, and then applied to DD, was to apply as early as possible–the day the apps open–to any school w/ rolling admission. Because of the common app, the number of applications is way up at places that used to be shoe-in/safe schools for certain students. That means no more guarantees. If you’re applying to a rolling admissions school, and you wait too long to apply, you could miss out, even if your scores and grades are well within range.

    DS didn’t have any rolling admissions schools on his list, but my godson did, and he had great results by applying early, where friends of his with similar numbers had bad luck applying late. DD’s two top choices were rolling admissions schools.

  28. FInn, on your 11:13 post, are the kids mostly comparing numbers? It would be nice to think that some of the “unexpecteds” had other stellar parts of their applications, despite the not-so-hot numbers.

  29. I am really curious about the effects of geography on admission. When I listen to the stories here, and then observe that ~5 students out of ~800 demographically unremarkable graduates in my “metropolitan area” get into HSS, it seems like being from Oregon and being qualified must be a statistical advantage.

  30. I think poetry contests, by themselves, are likely gimmicky and unlikely to sway any college decision. (I’ve had a peripheral role doing some interviewing with my alma mater, so I have reviewed some applications in the last few decades).

    Showing a love of poetry, however, may be the hook that entices certain colleges. Winning a few poetry contests, publishing a blog, jr counselor at some kind of creative writing program, etc. Doing something that shows depth in the area of poetry.

  31. “And at certain schools (albeit not the HSS), being perfect in the right things is pretty much a golden ticket. E.g., perfect PSAT/SAT scores and GPA, and no big negatives, pretty much guarantees NMF, which pretty much guarantees full tuition scholarships, or better, at a bunch of schools.”

    Everybody at Stanford is perfect at everything! Frankly if my kid wanted to go to Stanford, I’d tell him or her to become a star at the harmonica because everything else is taken. But yes, being perfect can guarantee money or placement at some of the better schools.

  32. WCE: all your graduates are demographically remarkable in the fact that they come from rural western area. They are also poor, at least compared to the average HSS student.

    I absolutely think geography matters. DH and I joke (or not so joke) about moving to Wyoming for high school. Our kids could go anywhere.

  33. Hmmm. Now I am terribly curious what the school you love is, Houston. Could you give us a hint w/o sharing too much private information?

    Not that this will help me. Y’all all know where everyone lives, and I am always the one trying to figure out how the hell you know that.

    Also when we played the same game with Cordelia’s daughter, I never did figure it out.

  34. Oh yes, geography matters, and it always has. I guarantee you that ended up with a better outcome because I was applying from KY and not CT

  35. Ada, good points on both. I have silently pondered the likelihood that I earn more per hour than my professor acquaintance who administers hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and travels all over. It motivates me to continue being strategically lazy.

  36. Lark: Johnny Football.

    Everyone is so nice. So, so nice. DS cannot appreciate the niceness. Pearls before swine.

  37. If you mean what I think you mean, Houston, that’s a great school and I’m surprised DS isn’t more interested in it.

  38. Oh well yes, I can understand sports references! Thanks. Great school!

    Oldest DH announced yesterday he is going to college in Texas and studying economics. No idea where this came from, but there you go. (He was unable to name a Texas school, but details, details…)

  39. I earn more per hour than my professor acquaintance who administers hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and travels all over.

    Which helps explain how the incomes of HSS graduate males are so low at age 34.

  40. For schools that want to claim a student from every state, geography matters. For some students, their zip code is a hook.
    But even those students are more likely to be Totebag kids whose transplant parents are professors at a directional U or the cardiologist at the community hospital instead of the offspring of mechanics or Walmart cashiers

  41. 9/10, missed the last one following the same reasoning as Cordelia. It’s interesting how much more hard-and-fast reliant on previous knowledge that one was. And you can tell it’s before they got sensitive to cultural bias — like, hmmm, is it possible that knowledge of precious gems / metals and western European languages was more common in some areas / social classes than others?

  42. Ada, I’d love for him to pursue it further! We’re going one step at a time. It kills me, but I remind myself that if he does this now, does it again sometime, participates in some kind of program one summer & is on the teaching side of it later, it could add up to the kind of bigger thing you’re talking about.

  43. CoC, I sent in a topic last night.

    On college tests, mine both desired to do well without having to put excessive amounts of energy in. So they both had good-but-not-stellar SAT scores (low-90-something %ile) test scores but not too 7 or 10%. Both were offered alternate admission to A&M (go to a school in our system for a year, get a 3.2 and transfer to main campus sophomore year). DD rejected that, went out of state and transferred there sophomore year anyway. Transferring was not difficult in her major, but is very difficult in others. Having gone her circuitous route, she has ended up with some strong internship experience, relevant leadership activities and some people offering to recommend her, so although she had less fun than I think college should be, it seems to be working out. She’s about to start the job hunt, so we’ll see.

    DS has not decided where he will go next year. DH still thinks community college with a transfer to flagship is the best path for him, but I’ll support what he chooses. He wants to get an advanced degree so he needs to do well wherever he chooses. At the end of this process with my second child I’m so much more low stress about it. They’ll get jobs. They’ll go on to do things they enjoy. They’ll be fine.

    I think test prep courses would have been good, but neither was interested in the additional time commitment above regular homework levels. If they are not internally motivated for it, it’s a waste of money. I’m hearing some “I wish I had figured this out in high school”, but 22 is not over the hill. DS continues to get past the anxiety, so is much more highly motivated now than a year ago when he took the SAT, so would likely make different choices, but again – plenty of time to take advantage of this higher commitment

  44. The one based on languages was impressive. It required either that the test taker be minimally knowledgable in 3 languages, or understand linguistic families. Neither would be common knowledge today, even among Totebag kids

  45. program, directory, schedule are as similar as encyclopedia, dictionary, directory,

    Program can be a noun or verb. Encyclopedia, dictionary and directory are all nouns.

  46. Rhett, I had exactly the opposite reaction to WCE’s post about her friend. The traveling all over is for work, but must also yield personal advantage, even without income that is then spent on a vacation trip.

    That football metaphor went right over my head.

  47. My DS2 is already more obsessed about where he will go to college, and more aspirational. He will likely have the grades. I think he will not be as good on the SAT because anxiety tends to get the better of him. I think I will have him do the SAT prep classes so that he can practice enough to lower his anxiety level. I am also wondering about applying for extended time. He gets extended testing time now due to his 504 plan, inherited from an IEP. It is helpful for him due to his tendency to panic.

  48. I am very good at that type of test because I am good at understanding what the test writer wants me to answer, and I don’t get distracted by nuances. So, I noticed that Greece is not culturally part of Eastern Europe, but it was also clear that this was the answer they wanted me to check. Same for that last question. There were nuances of language there, but it was clear to me which one I was supposed to pick.

  49. Certainly there was cultural bias as HM mentioned, but what I like about the questions in the quiz is that they require doing some small step with the information that x is a gem and y is a metal.

  50. Saac, he hates travel, and his obligations have severely limited his wife’s career, so it’s a net minus for their family.

  51. Question for MM — Did your son do test prep?

    Houston — congrats for your son and I hope they rule in his favor for UT. it would seem logical, but that’s not guarantee . . .

    I might disagree on the language question. Part of it is process of elimination based on some basic knowledge of languages and vocabulary.

  52. Neither would be common knowledge today, even among Totebag kids

    I’m not sure that’s true — I think the internet gives kids in general more exposure to scraps and bits of all kinds of languages, especially for words like “mother” that are easy to throw in to some funny video to add foreign language color where the meaning is obvious from context. Plus they’ve all watched Dora (super cool exploradora) and Diego. Of course they’re also much more likely than their 20s equivalents to know similar words from non-European languages, like oppan (Gangnam style).

  53. 9 of 10 and also should have gone with my first answer on the one I got wrong. I feel like I would have known more about diptheria if I was alive in 1926 – I was thinking vaccine versus virus.

  54. I was thinking vaccine versus virus.

    The other option was tuberculosis, anemia and typhoid. Anemia doesn’t fit because it’s not communicable and not necessarily caused by a pathogen.

  55. The linguistic question – the word for mother is similar across many languages even among non European ones, so I would think many kids would get that.
    I had to think about the geography question. I am still learning about which place is where.

  56. On the diseases question my reasoning was the same as Rhett’s. On the geography question it seems others are overthinking it or maybe my lack of geography knowledge actually made it easier to answer correctly.

  57. Lark – funny about Texas and econ major. There are certainly lots of jobs here but I am sure your DS would miss the water. I know I do!

    Congrats, Houston. My last job had lots of grads from that school. Its a good one but so big!

  58. On the geography question it seems others are overthinking it or maybe my lack of geography knowledge actually made it easier to answer correctly.

    Yeah, I just went with “close together” vs “not close together” for the countries.

    For diseases I followed the same reasoning as Rhett — anemia isn’t caused by a microbe. If it had truly forced you to choose between bacterial and viral diseases that would have been tricker.

  59. I was thinking simplistically as “things I might get” because my only association with diptheria was with the combined vaccine. I just received a booster and my doctor didn’t even mention diptheria – emphasis was on tetanus and whooping cough boosters.

  60. Yeah, I just went with “close together” vs “not close together” for the countries.

    Me too

  61. You don’t need to know any other language to get the mother question right.

    Two options include decendiente so that’s out. The leaves us with madre, mutter and mere vs. padre, mere mutter. Logically how could padre, mere, mutter be the right answer?

  62. I’m not one to analyze this sort of stuff “why did you answer the way you did?” The only logical, if Sheldon-esque, answer is “because it was the correct one.”

    ditto Risley on what I learned from DS3’s college app process. Apply as early as possible to rolling admissions schools. If a school offers “early action” (non-binding) make that deadline!

  63. CoC said
    “I might disagree on the language question. Part of it is process of elimination based on some basic knowledge of languages and vocabulary”

    I think that is what I meant by linguistic family. It was easy to guess that the one with all m words was the right one, if you knew the word for mother in ONE of those languages.

    I don’t think kids have that level of knowledge about European languages though.

  64. CoC, he bought a book about the SAT and did the practice tests. He said the actual SAT was way easier than the practice tests

  65. if you knew the word for mother in ONE of those languages.

    Why do you need to know that? How could the one with padre be right?

  66. HM, I agree with you on the “mother” questions. There are enough languages that use each of those forms that people can be expected to know them. But I’m not so much in agreement with you on the answer to cultural bias being questions based on videos and tv shows.

    Logic for all the questions, of course. Part of that is looking at how the question is written/where a clearly bogus answer shows up. Are the questions in the same order every time?

  67. Test taking rant: One of the small snowflakes was just tested for placement in the district accelerated program. Two components – kindergarten achievement testing (who knew that was a thing?I guess they all learned how to use a mouse and then sat at the computer for awhile) and a district administer 3+ hour IQ test. On the latter, overall score was 99%ile. On the former, her reading score was 80th. Both are fairly accurate, in my estimation. She reads slightly above grade level and is wicked smart.

    So, the district requires 98%ile IQ PLUS 95%ile achievement for pull out programming. Next year, they will divide math into fast and slow. Probably call it the bluebirds and robins, but it will be fast and slow. That requires 87%ile IQ and 85th%ile achievement. So, she’ll be a bluebird instead of a robin.

    She’s never going to make it to calculus. Okay, that’s not really the issue. However, I can’t believe she will be placed in the low math class because she only reads at the 80th percentile. GAH.

  68. And a shout out to Rhett for helping me, and I’m sure others, understand the importance of the soft skills. Because of things I’ve read here, I’ve tried to emphasize that with my kids. My DD’s best opportunities have come from the fact that she can talk to anyone and is not afraid to speak in front of a group of strangers. I have used her as an example for DS on the doors that open if you can just make yourself show up and carry on a conversation. I completely blew off things like that when I was younger, and had no idea what I probably missed out on.

  69. the answer to cultural bias being questions based on videos and tv shows

    I am not sure what gave you the impression that I thought the answer to cultural bias was questions based on videos and tv shows. I do not think the answer to cultural bias is questions based on videos and tv shows.

  70. This sort of testing was never done in the home country so initially I was slow at figuring out the right answer. I think here the kids know, one answer is glaring wrong, one might be a trick answer etc. so they can get to the answer pretty quick. This still happens to me today, I am slower than my kids are on multiple choice.

  71. MBT, your story about your daughter at that conference and all her national contacts is awesome!

  72. HM, I must’ve misunderstood you here.

    ” exposure to scraps and bits of all kinds of languages, especially for words like “mother” that are easy to throw in to some funny video to add foreign language color where the meaning is obvious from context. Plus they’ve all watched Dora (super cool exploradora) and Diego”

  73. I got 10/10 but couldn’t tell you why I picked most of the answers that I did. They just seemed correct. One reason that I would be a terrible teacher and why I hated when teachers required me to show my work. One of the few times my parents ever went to bat for me in school was when a teacher gave me an F for not showing my work even though I got all of the answers right. My dad basically told the teacher that I didn’t have work to show.

  74. Program was not commonly used as a verb in 1926. I reasoned with pseudo and HM, because I was thinking of a directory as ephemeral, and not in the sense of a reference work, which upon reflection would have been more accurate at that time.

    I recall at the age of 8 taking an IQ test in which the task of picking out the odd word was solved by choosing the one that was not the name of a Crayola 64 box color. Things like salmon or cornflower. I said to my mom, how does that measure anything. what if the kid doesn’t have that big a box at home or school.

  75. Program was not commonly used as a verb in 1926.

    Are you sure? Surely program a computer came long after program meant arrange according to a plan or schedule.

  76. “Probably call it the bluebirds and robins, but it will be fast and slow.”
    LOL – why not call a spade a spade and make it rabbits and turtles. Everyone knows!

  77. Geography is definitely a hook. We thought about private school for DD when she was still in preschool. We went to an orientation session about admission to kindergarten, and the head of the school told the audience that we should move to Nebraska if we think that a private school in our county will give our kid an advantage for college. He said that there are just too many qualified applicants from the northeast, and to Scarlett’s point – many of these students would be successful at the top tier schools. There just aren’t enough spots, and the best advice us to improve our children’s chances of admittance to a top school is to move to a state such as Wyoming or Nebraska since every college wants to brag that they have kids from all 50 states.

  78. Rhett, I thought “computer program” as a noun came before “programming” as a verb. I’ll see if I can find etymology ready to hand.

  79. I thought the disease one was obvious, but I am not sure why. The countries one I had to think about and then think about what the map of countries looked like back then. I did try to figure out what the commonality was – it took me a couple of passes (thought peninsulas at first, but Japan is an island) through to figure out it. The language one, I almost got wrong because all I could think of was “Hello mudder…” and that made me but that one to the side. But, then the others didn’t work. I don’t remember the one about program…

  80. Mooshi, you’re thinking of the Cold War and tourism to Greek islands, both of which were/are after 1926. Greece has a long border with Bulgaria. Since 1989, the Romanian community in Greece has revived. Cultural geography changes.

  81. Couldn’t get much clarity in the computer context, but I ran this google Ngram and it suggests that program was an existing noun as of 1800 (since the 17c per OED, I saw separately), whereas programming, use of which indicates that “program” could be used as a verb, first shows up somewhere between 1830 and 1840.

  82. to Anon 1:32, can you appeal the decision since it just based on one test?

    Our district finally changed the process for placement into 8th grade earth science to try to make it a level playing field for more students. In the past, it was the kids that were in accelerated math that had an advantage, and that prevented too many kids from being shut out based on some math scores from 5th and 6th grades. They now test the entire 7th grade on science concepts from grades 5- 7, and they don’t exclude anyone from sitting for the test. In order to minimize the importance of one test on one day, they added more data points to try to capture more snowflakes that might not score high enough on the grade wide test. to make sure that they are treating all of the kids fairly, so they use multiple data points to select the kids. This includes average in all academic subjects for 7th grade, average in science for grades 5-7, and recommendation from science and math teachers. The student still has the right to appeal and try to place into the class if the student is on the bubble, and there is still a seat available.

  83. “CoC, he bought a book about the SAT and did the practice tests.”

    This is consistent with my casual observation that most NMSFs don’t do much test prep.

    Reading these comments brings to mind the recurring argument that the SAT and other similar tests are mainly useful to gauge test taking skills. But the logic and application of background knowledge that go into getting correct answers do seem to count for something. One local school administrator often told us that tests only measured what happened during 3 hours on a Saturday morning and that grades were a much better measure of a student’s academic skills. Yeah, our school did not seem to be a fan of these tests.

  84. Rhett, I thought “computer program” as a noun came before “programming” as a verb.

    Per Hamilton and the song “In the Room Where it Happens.” To be at Bletchley Park and Alan Turing is talking to someone from MI-6, “No Colossus will be different, you’ll be able to give it a…an entire program of tasks.”

    Not that is actually when the term was coined but to be wherever it happened when someone first gave it its new meaning.

    Personally, I’m fascinated by how the definition of phone has changed in my lifetime. It once meant a corded phone that only made calls. Then they had car phones and then cell phones when the brick from Motorola came out. But phone always meant landline. And now phone means the device in your pocket that can do tons of things with making calls just a small part of its’ duties. And now people say landline phone as the default definition of phone is small but super powerful pocket computer.

    Come to think of it, I have to assume they don’t wire new homes for landline phones anymore.

  85. Anon – I understand your frustration. From what I have observed, it is not about whether your child will be successful, but that they have budget to serve X kids. So, if you make the threshold at what it truly takes to be successful in that program, you would likely get 2X kids who make the cut.

    One of the thing college taught me was “Learn the rules well enough to use them to your advantage.” Based on that I would find out if and how you can appeal. And even, if they say you can’t, argue the you should be able to!

  86. HM,

    I’m curious about the “ing.” Did people once say programming like they now say coding? I need to program a new device driver. I need to code a new device driver. I’m programming a new device driver sounds wrong to me…

  87. I am home now and did a quick internet search. It appears that sometime in the mid to late 19th century is the first recorded usage of program or programme (UK orthography) as a verb. It seems not to be in common use until the 1930s or 40s. It might be a bit like the gradual increase in the use of “contact” as a verb (a particular pet peeve of Nero Wolfe). However, the point was about what “directory” connoted in 1926 – a reference work in a library, not a listing subject to update such as a program or schedule..

  88. Sacnmama, according to the Almight Wikipedia, Greece is sometimes included but is more typically considered part of “southern Europe”

    ” Greece is a rather unusual case and may be included, variously, in Western,[38] Southeastern[39] or Southern Europe.[40][41]”

    They also note that there is not a lot of precision as to which countries are in Eastern Europe
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_Europe

    Personally, I don’t see much in common in terms of culture between Greece and say Poland or even Romania. Greece is a Mediterranean country culturally, with strong influence from Turkey.

  89. As a transitive verb, the word is vague and self-important. Do not contact people; get in touch with them, look them up, phone them, find them, or meet them.
    -William Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth ed., 2000

    Vague is the whole point. If you say you need to phone, find, meet, e-mail, text, etc. them you’re implying that specified mode of communication is the only one that’s acceptable. If you say contact you’re implying that any form or communication will do.

  90. The problem with Greece is that it is the very far south of the Balkans, and much of it is geographically not in the Balkans, but is instead islands in the Mediterranean. The coast is very long and defines much of the geography. They also do not speak a language related to any of the Eastern European languages, and because of the long Turkish occupation, share much of that culture. I think if you asked a Greek person if they were part of Eastern Europe, they would disagree, but then of course they would never admit to the strong Turkish influence either.

  91. MM,

    Eastern Europe isn’t part of the question. Bulgaria, Romania and Greece are contiguous. Even if you didn’t know that, you’d have to weigh it against Norway, Denmark and Greece and have some vague sense that Greece is closer to Romania and Bulgaria than it is to Norway and Denmark.

  92. 2. Expedia does not let you book a child’s ticket all by itself.

    Never book through expedia or any of the other third party sites. Always book directly through the airline. If there is a cancellation or some other problem, the airline will often send you back to expedia to rebook it or otherwise fix the problem.

  93. While you are all talking about transitive verbs and geography and foreign languages and drilling down to find the precise reasons why you answered questions a certain way (on a quiz I was, as usual, too lazy to click open), DD, sitting in my office now, is watching a video on FB showing a baby goat who stands on its owner while the owner does yoga.

    I often feel my family brings down the average intellectual sophistication level of this board by several leagues. This is definitely one of those times.

  94. In completely self-absorbed news, my shiny new Camry Hybrid is sitting in the garage. Using a broker was SO EASY.

  95. Here’s our latest issue. DS is taking intro to robotics. He got a D first semester. He tried to drop it for second semester and they said he couldn’t because he missed the deadline (the semester hadn’t even started yet). Now he’s getting an F after get a 0 on the last big build/test. He said the teacher said only two people didn’t get zeroes, and they “still didn’t do very well.” I asked his counselor if he can drop the class, and she said it’s district policy if you drop after the first 6 weeks, you get a withdraw/fail for the class. So apparantly he could have dropped it in the first 6 weeks even though it was after the drop deadline.

    I set up a meeting with the teacher for Monday. From what DS says, he doesn’t actually teach during the class, they just get an assignment they need to do. Regardless of how the teacher is teaching (or not teaching) when most of the class is failing, it’s a systemic issue somewhere. Obviously I’m just getting DS’ side of things. But he’s a reasonable intelligent kid, his GPA even with this class, is a 3.2 or so. I just don’t want him to have a couple of Ds or a D and an F on his transcript.

    I hate being that parent.

  96. Ris – you should know by now that my family is solidly middle brow intellectually. Although DS2 who is home for a long weekend was asking me a lot of details about the financial workings of where I work the other night. This is the kid who wants to be a doctor.

  97. DD, you’re definitely not being that parent. If parents don’t speak up when there are obvious problems, how else will they be resolved?

  98. Wondering if anyone here has any familiarity with UWC (boarding high school). A friend has been raving about them recently – she’s come in contact with some graduates and teachers. Seems completely awesome (and free) – but seems also like winning the lottery. https://www.uwc-usa.org/index.cfm

  99. Denver, that’s completely absurd. At some point you’re going to have to drag a lawyer in there with you.

  100. Did people once say programming like they now say coding?

    Ah, Rhett, I still say programming more readily than I say coding. When I started college, all the freshman were supposed to take a programming test to show they knew a little Basic as a condition of access to the computer lab — even though we were mostly showing up with personal computers, that was a new enough development that the policies still assumed we’d be using the mainframe to write and print out papers.

  101. Denver, be that parent. Ridiculous!

    I got 10/10 – phew. Haven’t lost my test-taking mojo!

    I had a geographic hook coming from my HS, but I think I would have been competitive coming from MA/NY also. Too soon to tell how our kids will be – but I think average may be a good aim for them. ;)

  102. There’s really no good way to appeal – the district is clear that all successful appeals need to be based on outside testing that shows the district testing was not accurate. And the special snowflake in question is still probably reading at an 80th percentile level. So, no need to schedule and pay for testing.

    Probably the snowflake will still be able to take calculus someday and may still have an opportunity for an R1 engineering school. It’s just frustrating to see that math will be a sad hour a day with the bluebirds next year, when even the robin math might have been too easy. I’ve always been a proponent of tracking – until now that it is working against me.

    Just really ranting here. I don’t think there is any action to take via the school.

  103. I hate the term coding. It seems to have only cropped up in the last 5 years. It makes it sound like monkeys tapping out Morse code. Writing a program is not really a CODING problem – that would imply you have sometihing written in a natural language that you are translating into a code.But that isn’t at all what you do with you develop a program.

  104. This robotics class is K12? The fact that there is not oficial “teaching” is not suprising – it seems to be the way all these noncollege robotics courses are taught. They are more about building a project than actually learning the theory of robotics (which is honestly a college level topic anyway). So that would be typical. But if everyone is flunking, there is definitely a problem

  105. Anon, the problem is that they are tracking across all subjects at once. Tracking doesn’t really work unless you do it in a very fine grained way, by subject. There are tons of kids who are good at math and awful at reading/writing, or vice versa.

    I am a fan of tracking in theory – I suffered horribly in an untracked junior high – but the way it is practiced, including our district, gives me huge qualms about it. For tracking to be successful, it has to be fine-grained, with numerous on and off-ramps because kids change over time

  106. For me to support tracking/readiness grouping, you have to have/make space for everyone who is qualified at a given level, even if that means uneven class sizes. My math department head friend has worked out a good system for this in her middle school, but it is a tough problem.

  107. WCE, I agree with that too. It has to be all of those things – fine grained, ability to switch tracks as needed, and room for everyone at a level

  108. DD – I was once told when my kids were young, “you are advocating for your kids, if you don’t do it, no one else will”. I kept that in mind.
    Looks like you will need to get hold of the handbook detailing all the academic policies so that policies can’t be secret or changed on the fly.

  109. I thought it was interesting in Hidden Figures how the ladies who did the calculations were referred to as “computers” – which of course, they were!

    MBT – my daughter is exactly like yours. She was in plays (regular and musical theater) from 1st grade through high school, but became a CPA. Having the ability to talk to people and stand up in front of a crowd and speak has helped her quite a bit.

    I mentioned earlier about DS walking up to a major transportation CEO at a Shake Shack in DC and introducing himself. The guy was impressed and gave him his card, he got a tour of the DC facility, and got a paid internship at their HQ last summer. I would never have been that bold, and that is not his natural behavior. I think being an Eagle Scout helped somewhat, because they have to talk to adults when they advance ranks and when in leadership positions.

  110. Anon – I understand your frustration. From what I have observed, it is not about whether your child will be successful, but that they have budget to serve X kids. So, if you make the threshold at what it truly takes to be successful in that program, you would likely get 2X kids who make the cut.

    But if you allocate one class for the advanced students, and end up with enough advanced students to fill classes, why can’t you just chance of the regular classes to an advanced class? There’s no additional cost.

    Anon, if they are going to be that rigid about it, that’s just stupid. I’m with Mooshi and WCE – tracking needs to be by subject. Not all kids who are great at math are great readers and vice-versa.

  111. that would imply you have sometihing written in a natural language that you are translating into a code

    What does the business analyst deliver other than the “something written in natural language” that you have to code?

  112. One of the choices my math department friend had to make was which sections of middle school math to make 40 students (fire code limit in her building) and which to make 20 students. She and the other teachers ended up having the advanced math sections be 40 students (because students needed less help, and lots of them could get help at home) and the basic math sections be 20 students (because students required more help and couldn’t necessarily get it at home)

    I suspect part of my district’s opposition to tracking is partly logistical.

  113. The business anlyst gives you a vague and very incomplete description of a system. The software engineers design algorithms and data structures that hopefully will work together in some fashion with acceptable performance, filling in the millions of gaps in the very imprecise business analyst description as they go.

    For example, DH will get a specification in terms of a bunch of mathematical equations descrbing a financial model. He and his team will identify the myriad data sources where the information is found, figure out the acceptable performance parameters, design an in-memory representation of the data that is fast enough, and identify or design the algorithms that implement the mathematical model. A lot of the work is represented in more math, or diagrams, but in the end the software is an important artifact. As they work, they will think in a mix of the programming language as well as visual images. You don’t translate, you think

  114. I love this quote from Fred Brooks The Mythical Man-Month on the love of programming
    “Finally, there is the delight of working in such a tractable medium. The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.”

    This really describes the process.

    http://www.grok2.com/progfun.html

  115. MM,

    Yes, but there any number of lucrative levels below developing high speed trading algorithms. Your students, toiling in the bowels of Corporate America, aren’t going to be doing anything like that.

  116. This really describes the process.

    That’s what you were doing when you were parsing billing files?

  117. At their own level, yes. You can’t write software at any level if you can’t think in terms of algorithms and data structures. And the lower levels are the worst because the business analysts (if they even exist) are the worst.

    Parsing is a good example, First of all, parsing is pretty abstract because you have to think in terms of parse trees. And you are parsing TO an internal data representation, which you have to design and understand. Yes, if you do it all the time, it can get boring because of familiarity. But if you can’t think in terms of tree structures, you can’t build a parser. Interestingly, parsing is one of the things my students really flounder at.

  118. Denver: You totally need to be that parent. Wear the moniker with pride as you sally forth to battle.

  119. MM,

    You’re making it sound way more complicated than it actually is. I can only assume the kids get tripped up by all the jargon?

    I don’t mean that to be in any way offensive. I use them every day lately and until today I didn’t know they had a non-vendor specific name. But it makes me sympathize for your students having to come at this without any knowledge of the concepts being described.

  120. “What I learned from DS’s college app year, and then applied to DD, was to apply as early as possible–the day the apps open–to any school w/ rolling admission.”

    I agree in general, but first look at your kids’ top choice colleges and see what their early action options are, whether ED (binding), EA, SCEA/REA (single choice EA/Restricted EA, non-binding but with restrictions on applying EA/ED elsewhere), rolling, or none of the above.

    In DS’ case, of his top choices one was SCEA and the others were ED, so he just applied early action to the one SCEA school.

    But beyond that, work backwards from applying early to make sure everything’s done to facilitate that. To be ready to apply by Oct 1, you need to have the schools to apply to by then. The summer after junior year is a good time to visit schools, and narrow down choices, but that would mean planning out your travel before that, during junior year. That suggests that you want to have at least one round of testing done by December or January of junior year, which means test prep no later than summer before junior year. SAT prep that summer makes sense in prepping for both the SAT and PSAT, and I suggest taking if prep is done that summer, SAT be taken early in junior year, while prep is still fresh.

    And if aspiring to HSS, don’t forget to plan for SAT subject tests.

  121. Rhett, part of the process of learning computer science is learning the algorithms and the names for them. Do you know what recursion is? We spend a lot of time on the concept in the Data Structures and Algorithms course. That is why people get computer science degrees.

    And recursively waking a tree is a common interview question for programmers.

  122. “To be ready to apply by Oct 1, you need to have the schools to apply to by then.”

    You need to have identified the schools to which to apply by then.

  123. “I suggest taking if prep is done that summer, SAT be taken early in junior year, while prep is still fresh. ”

    I suggests if prep is done that summer, SAT be taken early in junior year.

  124. And not sure what you mean by vendor specific. There are vendor specific file formats, as well as non vendor specific ones like XML or JSON. They all vary, but the algorithms used to parse them are pretty much the same.

  125. Can I make your head really explode? If the representation you need to parse is complex, a common approach is to use a parser-generator, known more commonly as a compiler-compiler. Yacc was a famous example. I had a consulting gig once where I used it – it was one of the network hardware companies. Their network components stored a lot of data about themselves in some format – can’t remember the name of it now, and they wanted to generate C++ classes from this data – each C++ class being a representation of that network component. I used yacc to generate the parser, and then generated the C++ from the internal representation. Easy peasy, but you had to understand the internal parse tree used by parsers generated by yacc. And you had to understand the formal grammar used by yacc

    Parsing:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parsing

  126. And in a compiler course, a standard course in a 4 year CS program, students learn to use compiler-compilers (usually more updated versions of yacc) to build their own programming language compiler

  127. Do you know what recursion is?

    Iteration? Yes. Recursion? No.

    Unless you mean breaking a problem down into smaller but similar parts.

    students learn to use compiler-compilers (usually more updated versions of yacc) to build their own programming language compiler

    I get how that would be helpful if you were at the very bleeding edge of CS. But how does that help you parse billing files*?

    * By that I mean my guys at the hotel/on the plane study says 95% of CS jobs involve billing file parsing like problems.

  128. Mooshi, yes, I agree with your comment at 3:35. Greece is now considered to be a Mediterranean country, or Southern European. The phrase “Eastern Europe” took on a new meaning after WW II. Cultural geographies are not static.

  129. “* By that I mean my guys at the hotel/on the plane study says 95% of CS jobs involve billing file parsing like problems.”
    Your IT guy doesn’t have a clue

  130. interesting in Hidden Figures how the ladies who did the calculations were referred to as “computers”

    Yes!

    Recursively waking a tree.
    I have no idea if there is a typo in that phrase or if there is a whole other definition of “wake” that I haven’t heard of.

  131. posted on the wrong thread:

    “FInn, on your 11:13 post, are the kids mostly comparing numbers?”

    No. A lot of the kids know each other, and if they don’t, they’ll know someone in common. A lot of the comparison points are based on having classes with other kids; within a given section, they’ll know who’s mastering the material, who’s getting by, and who’s struggling.

    And not all kids blast out their numbers.

    A lot of the head scratching occurs when a HSS admits a kid who’s getting by in classes like AP Physics and AP Calc, but turns down the kid who’s acing those classes, and there’s no obvious hook involved.

  132. “DH and I joke (or not so joke) about moving to Wyoming for high school.”

    For the class of 2017, Wyoming was one of several states with the lowest NMSF threshold.

  133. “the recurring argument that the SAT and other similar tests are mainly useful to gauge test taking skills.”

    IMO, there is a causal relationship between test taking skills, especially multiple-choice test taking skills, and the ability to reason and think logically, which is what I believe the College Board was trying to assess in previous versions of the SAT.

  134. A lot of the head scratching occurs when a HSS admits a kid who’s getting by in classes like AP Physics and AP Calc, but turns down the kid who’s acing those classes, and there’s no obvious hook involved.

    Could it be that a few of those getting by had high test scores ? Or a project with a hook ?
    I knew several students who didn’t seem like they were studying but come exam results they always were top rankers. The others were constantly worried and took every opportunity to review the material.

  135. “A lot of the head scratching occurs when a HSS admits a kid who’s getting by in classes like AP Physics and AP Calc, but turns down the kid who’s acing those classes, and there’s no obvious hook involved.”

    In one instance like that the teacher saw the student as absent minded but brilliant. So even though that student was getting by with Bs the teacher wrote one of those “once in my career” recommendation letters, which combined with other factors got this kid some admissions that had others scratching their heads. However, given all that I still believe that many HSS admissions are like a lotteries.

  136. lol this is me after reading some of MM’s comments here. Totally over my head.

  137. Concerning the college discussion. ….the earlier that your kid looks at schools, the better. DD attended a summer program at a college the summer between her sophomore and junior year. She knew right then that it was the school for her. She looked at a few other schools but only because we strongly encouraged her to do so. After that summer experience, she became much more focused in school because she had a specific goal in mind and knew what she needed to do to accomplish it. Also don’t dismiss private schools because of the cost. I was very concerned about the cost of the school that DD had chosen, but she received a merit scholarship that knocked the price down to just a few thousand dollars more than the instate school that was her backup.

  138. For the class of 2017, Wyoming was one of several states with the lowest NMSF threshold.

    Wyoming has a total population of about 187.

    On the plus side, it’s very pretty and there are a lot of moose.

  139. Sorry, typo – should be “walking a tree”, in other words, tree traversals.

    The font on my monitor is set to very small, which worked for me for years, but is increasingly hard to read as I get older. But I am too vain to set it to a large, “old folks” size

  140. CofC,

    I’m not disagreeing with MM. Her goal is to give her students a theoretical and practical foundation with which to approach nearly any problem.

    My experience is more being sent to Tampa for a four day class where they teach you to do a very narrow range of things related to your job role.

    It certainly would have been better to have the theoretical background at the start but that ship sailed.

  141. And Rhett, sorry if I seemed a little snappish last night – it was late. But I think your person has a common confusion – the difference between IT and CS. And it is a big one. From the Joint Task Force on Computing Curricula
    “People who specialize in computer science are trained in the theory of computation and the design of computer systems. The computer science discipline is closely related to mathematics and includes a range of topics — from the theoretical (such as studies of the limits of computation) to practicalities (such as issues of implementing computing systems in hardware and software). The work of people in the computer science field falls into three categories, according to the report. Those include designing and implementing software, devising new ways to use computers, and developing effective ways to solve computing problems.

    On the other hand, people who are trained in information technology are prepared to meet the hands-on, practical and everyday computer technology needs of all types of organizations, including business, government, healthcare, and schools. Entities rely on their IT teams to select hardware and software products that will work best for the organization and then integrate the systems with the company or institution’s infrastructure to work properly and securely. ”

    What you might notice there is that software development goes under CS, whereas choosing products and support falls under IT. Your network people, your IT helpdesk support, your IT purchasing people, the people who design the webpages – those people don’t need CS degrees. I know tons of people who got into IT roles with English degrees, or 2 year degrees in IT Technology, or stuff like that. Those folks often do a little programming, writing scripts that translate output from one vendor product to a format that can get fed into another vendor product, or automating the cron jobs, or stuff like that. That is probably what your person on the plane is thinking of. And for a long time, those were the vast majority of computer related jobs, and there are still a lot of them.

    But things changed. First of all, the dot com bust and subsequent outsourcing decimated the really mundane IT jobs. Even when outsourcing declined, many of those jobs got automated or outsouced to domestic companies. It is pretty common now to outsource your IT helpdesk function, for example.

    But something else happened around the mid-00’s. It was about that time that the fields of machine intelligence, data mining, and data analytics exploded. And a lot of companies, even very boring companies, realized that an awful lot of their business intelligence was locked up in software, and that they needed to control that software themselves. And furthermore, they started to get very interested in the new technologies, realizing that if they brought in some CS people who understood data mining algorithms, or who could work with Hadoop and Hive effectively, that they could do even more. So they started hiring, but now the people they wanted to hire were not the guy with the associates in network technology, but the person with the MS in CS and a specialization in say high speed computing algorithms. I noticed the pickup in hiring sometime around 2010 or so. What has happened now is that companies want more CS people but at the same time, they have gotten pretty fussy about the kind of CS people they want.

    For us, the problem is that a lot of our majors are not capable, or even interested in, being the kind of CS person who can write programs for massively clustered architectures, or who can write platform independent mobile applications. They actually want to be the software solutions purchasing guy, or the person who writes policies that make you change your password every 6 weeks. They should not be majoring in CS. So what I have been trying to do is to revamp our old and kind of discredited IT major into something attractive, and then aggressively move the students who are struggling in the programming sequence over to IT. They will get more business courses there, courses in systems analysis, and network setup, and stuff that IT people need. The problem I face is that some of our higher administrators don’t want to do this because they think CS sounds more prestigious.

    So there we are, two related but different fields.

  142. And related to this – has anyone been reading about the Uber mini scandal – they had secret software that let their cars evade the authorities in places where their service was not legal? This is what I mean when I said that companies have realized that their business intelligence is inside software, and that controlling it in house, and having people with the ability to do really interesting things is in their interest.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39164880

    This software looks like it was using a lot of data mining to do its thing.

  143. MM,

    Then where would you rate a custom for a time and attendance system that would allow it to record and process the state in which work was performed for companies with employees working in multiple states?

    It seems like you see CS and IT as totally different but from what I see the typical business need is somewhere in between.

  144. Uber mini scandal

    Read the NYTimes article but focus on the comments. Sorted by popularity #4 is from the one and only Kaleberg.

  145. May be to late – I know you don’t like the idea that tracking isn’t a budgetary issue, but it often is. For example, you have 100 kids who need this course at either regular or advanced level. Your goal is 20 kids per class. Assume a 6 period class day, one full time teacher teaches all 5 classes with one planning period.

    Put in cutoff A, you get 20 kids = one classroom. Great, teacher teaches one section of advanced and 4 of regular. But put in cutoff B, you get 45 kids, which is more than two classrooms. Now if that just leaves 55 kids who don’t make the cutoff, you have more than two classrooms. Do you create 2 advanced (crowded classrooms) and 3 regular (less crowded classrooms? Do you create 6 classes, which means hiring a part-time teacher? Or do, you just go with the higher cutoff?

    I realize this is simplistic and in the real world it is often being looked at by department creating many more moving parts. However, my observation is that this is what happens. And, regardless of the cutoff, there is always going to be a few who are just below the cutoff, who would succeed in that environment.

  146. Rhett, it really depends. In a company that has purchased most of its HR software from a vendor, it may just be a one-off where someone who can write a perl script moves some data from one file to another.
    In a lot of companies, though, this may be an added piece of functionality in a large system built in house, in which case the junior developer stuck with it will probably have to understand the structure of some underlying Oracle DBMS, how to write JDBC and SQL query code that extracts the data from the Oracle system without killing performance. Or they may be using Hibernate to mediate Java code to the DBMS which requires even more knowledge. Most importantly he or she will have to understand the larger system that this is part of, and if it is one of the many companies that use a framework like J2EE or Spring or Struts to tie everything into a common architecture, well, your junior developer is going to have to be pretty sophisticated.

    So, yeah, it depends.

  147. If you are an SQL weenie, that can work. The danger is that if you only understand recursion in the context of SQL, you won’t be able to see how it applies to broader classes of problems.

    BTW, in interviews for software developers, there always seems to be recursion problem. The reality is that you don’t write recursive solutions that often, but there are certain things, like quicksort, that you just can’t grok without recursion

  148. A programmer started to cuss
    Because getting to sleep was a fuss
    As he lay there in bed
    Looping ’round in his head
    was: while(!asleep()) sheep++;

  149. “Sorted by popularity #4 is from the one and only Kaleberg.”

    Good eye Rhett!!

  150. I guess I am naive about contemporary public schools. I imagine a world in which there might be a small top track if there are sufficient numbers, a full college prep track that actually prepares kids for 4 year colleges, a “general” track for those who don’t expect to go to a four year college but might go to a two year program or the armed services or a non college training program, targeted vocational training, and classes for those with serious special needs or academic deficiencies. It sounds like the children of totebaggers, whether in rural areas or fancy suburbs, are given a public school choice between a limited access high achievement track, if one even exists, possibly a charter school, and something closer to general track than true college prep track. Is that true?

  151. Meme,

    What you describe sounds wonderful, but from my experiences, doesn’t exist. We face significantly limited access to a combination of your description of a college prep track and general track. The public school seems to prefer that all kids are in the classes on the “general” track.

    One of the issues with tracking in AustinMom’s example is that the teacher has to prep differently for each different class. So, if the kids are tracked appropriately in math, for example, there would be the high class, middle class and low class. That is three separate preps. It is much easier to just prep for the low class. When parents complain, the standard line is, “Your kid will do just fine no matter what.”

  152. Most of our students come from what is called the college prep track, which in NY I think accounts for a large percentage of students. This is NOT the same as the honors/AP track. My experience is that the college prep track, whether at a public or a Catholic school, does not prepare most students for college.

  153. Is three preps a problem for K12 teachers? It is pretty common in higher ed, and I remember when my mother was teaching in K12, she always had several different classes. In reality, you tend to teach the same classes over and over, so after the first couple of years it isn’t that bad.

    What is bad, at any level of education, is having to differentiate within one class to adjust for differnent levels of students, That creates horrific class management issues, unless you are in a Montessori or other model that has accounted for that

  154. Why do three preps when you can do one? It’s not like there is any consequence for not providing kids an adequate education. The school get paid on whether kids attend, not if they learn.

  155. Rhett, I was thinking about your example, and realized it isn’t a good one because very few companies write their own HR systems. I have never worked at a company that didn’t either outsource HR or buy vendor software. Same for billing systems. A better one might be a company that has a weird sales model and wants to handle all their sales tracking software themselves. HR is never considered to be core to a company, whereas sales may be.

    I worked briefly at a company around 2007 which was the weirdest thing ever. Their core business was selling phone cards to migrant Mexican workers. Yup, you heard it right. They did all their sales software in house because their salespeople were these Mexican guys who sold the cards out of the back of pickups at outdoor events that attracted a lot of Mexicans. They were large enough to sponsor some of the wellknown Mexican boxers. They needed specialized tracking apps that ran from mobile devices and I guess they couldn’t find anything from a vendor that did what they needed.

    You might wonder why I was there. It wasn’t to work on the sales applications, though I did fix a few bugs here and there, No, it was because they routed calls via third party carriers. That part was done automatically, but they wanted to analyze and store data on these calls. I can’t remember the exact details – this was 10 years ago – but basically the whole things was a graph problem. They had hired kids with CS degrees to do the sales app, and to start on the analysis problem, but at some point they wanted more sophistication so they hired several people with grad degrees inlcuding me. I didn’t last there for more than a few months – it was in Manhattan, very inconvneinet when I had small kids – and it was clear to me that the whole model was shaky. The economic storm clouds were gathering, and I wondered how long you could make a lot of money selling phone cards to illegal immigrants. But it was a good example of how even a very unexpected kind of company was suddenly realizing that its need for business intelligence required people with the kind of algorithmic thinking that CS people bring to the table. This was happening all over during the late 00’s/

  156. Pseudonym, so in your district, high school teachers are scheduled to teach the same course 5 periods a day?
    I just clicked around our HS teachers, and see that most of the ones I clicked on teach 3 courses. So my son’s SS teacher does Government and Economics12, Global History10 and Global History 9. My oldest son’s CS teacher teaches AP Computer Science, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and Web based Development.

    I thought that was normal.

  157. Sigh. Going into Grandpa Simpson mode again. When I were a lass, the junior high and high school had four tracks: Honors/AP (same thing at that time), A-Lane, B-Lane, and Remedial. (They didn’t bother with and robins and bluebirds.) You could be in one track for English and another for science or whatever combo worked for you. Honors/AP was for kids aiming for HSS. A-Lane was for kids aiming at second-tier colleges. B-Lane and Remedial weren’t college track. Seemed like a perfectly good system to me.

    Now, my stepson, who graduated 11 years ago and so is also turning into Grandpa Simpson, just went into the IB program and stayed there. I’m not sure what all the other kids did.

  158. Oh, and you could change lanes as needed. This business about how you can only be calculus track if you got an A in third-grade algebra is bizarre to me.

  159. It sounds like the children of totebaggers, whether in rural areas or fancy suburbs, are given a public school choice between a limited access high achievement track, if one even exists, possibly a charter school, and something closer to general track than true college prep track. Is that true?

    Our local high school has the general track, the honors track which is theoretically limited access (requires teacher signature) but in practice is open to pretty much anyone who wants to pursue it, and the AP courses which depending on the teacher can be challenging or can be meh. Language classes aren’t split into honors/regular so the effect is that at the beginning level they are general ed because everyone has to take one, but once you get to the higher-level ones they have only the kids who are interested. How fast they move depends on the language — Japanese is reputed to assume that everyone comes in speaking some at the beginning and move along at a brisk pace, whereas French starts from square one and doesn’t move that fast. There’s also the ability to take classes at the local community colleges (online or in person). So while the school won’t force kids to get a rigorous education, the main limit on what they can learn is really the kid’s own drive and wishes.

  160. My experience in IT was that it’s usually a combination of vendor/off-the-shelf products and custom applications. The custom apps are usually based around data manipulation and generally don’t require skills beyond intermediate programming ability. You really don’t need a CS degree to work in IT, which is where most CS grads are likely to end up simply because that’s where most of the jobs are.

  161. The IT people for not just my own small office, but a large organizational unit of government, like to talk up how they’re going to “develop” a “solution” for something or other, go talk to a bunch of different people in different agencies to figure out what people want, take months working on it, and then produce something that’s basically off-the-shelf Sharepoint with maybe a few purchased add-ins for additional effects, all done with much hand-holding from the Microsoft support. I don’t think I’ve seen them do anything that would involve actually writing a script. But it’s always produced with much fanfare about how fabulous it is that they developed this in-house. It’s really making me wonder just what kind of background most of the people in that office have.

  162. Our local high school is structured similarly to what RMS describes back in her day: AP/honors, “academic”, remedial, and a very small number of vocational students bused to a regional center. Students can be in different tracks for different subjects. As MM noted, all except maybe the vocational are considered college prep, but all are not really prepared for what used to be considered college level work.

  163. Until about 8th grade there is no real tracking except for “differentiation” within classrooms, which ime doesn’t really work out well for students at either end of the spectrum.

  164. DS’ high school seems very similar to how mine was in that there aren’t defined tracks. You simply select the classes that are appropriate for the student each year, whether they are honors/AP, regular, or remedial for the subject. DS just registered for next year and is taking honors Algebra 2 (or whatever they are calling it), honors English, honors history, regular physics, regular Spanish, and some electives. I think you need a teacher to recommend you for an honors class, but I’m not positive.

    So there aren’t any “tracks”, you just take the classes that are the best fit for you each year.

  165. honolulumom, you are describing classic IT. Most likely a lot of the people in that department will not have a straight CS degree. They may well have English degrees, or an associates in network technology, or a BA in MIS (management information systems). And maybe some CS degrees, but most likely people who got C’s in the hardcore CS classes and got a business minor to fill in.

    I think there are numerically more of these kinds of jobs, but it is shifting -a bigger percentage now are in the hardcore CS areas. And that is where the stiff competition for talent lies.

  166. Coc, the “academic” track in the one that does not do a good job of preparing for college. Our school is better than many, but right now both boys are in “academic” (as opposed to honors) social studies, and I am appalled at the lack of writing. DS1 in in there because of the horrible 10th grade honors global history class, which many kids fled in his year. DS2 in there because he missed the cutoff for honors because of a poor second quarter iin 8th grade , and our appeal failed even though he was only off by a few points. He has a 98 average in that class, though, so he will likely go into honors global 10.

  167. And so not academic. DD and myself were at a dance competition and while changing shoes, I thought I put them in the bag but there was only one shoe to be found. The stress ! The dumping out the contents of the bag to find the errant shoe. I rushed to the on site dance supplies vendor and bought another pair of shoes.

  168. DS1 in in there because of the horrible 10th grade honors global history class, which many kids fled in his year. DS2 in there because he missed the cutoff for honors because of a poor second quarter iin 8th grade , and our appeal failed even though he was only off by a few points. He has a 98 average in that class, though, so he will likely go into honors global 10.

    This is one of the things I don’t get – that some schools have such rigid requirements for taking honors classes.

  169. “Could it be that a few of those getting by had high test scores ?”

    No, they weren’t NMSF or Presidential Scholar nominees.

  170. This is one of the things I don’t get – that some schools have such rigid requirements for taking honors classes.

    A few years ago, my kids’ high school decided that freshmen couldn’t take biology. The reason given was that this would encourage more kids to take more science classes. It wasn’t remotely plausible. The plausible reason I have heard is that if kids have to take lower level courses, the material taught in those courses more closely matches the material on standardized tests, so making the kids retake low level courses might increase test scores.

  171. I don’t get the strict class cutoff in Mooshi’s district either. I found elementary school totally unreasonable through and through, but in high school and middle, there has been guidance based on grades and teachers recs and flexibility to accept requests I make. It is not a headache.

  172. “the earlier that your kid looks at schools, the better”

    We took DS on his first college visit the summer after 8th grade, which meant DD’s first college visits were the summer after 5th grade. We did more visits the next summer; by the last visit, DD decided to skip the campus tour, found a nice bench, and read a book while we did the tour.

    IOW, there may a limit to how early is better.

    “After that summer experience, she became much more focused in school because she had a specific goal in mind and knew what she needed to do to accomplish it.”

    OTOH, the college visits helped DS in a similar manner. Both years, but especially the second, when school started back up, one of the first things that happened was kids compared notes on the colleges they visited during the summer.

    The culture may be a bit different at their school, where most college visits, especially those before senior year, take place during summers.

  173. “Coc, the “academic” track in the one that does not do a good job of preparing for college.”

    Yup. It makes me angry that they are failing our kids this way. Of course parents in the know will supplement their kids’ education, but other parents are clueless. When their kids struggle in college or drop out, they don’t know this is part of the reason.

    Related to selection of college major, I recently learned that some financial institutions have historians on staff to offer genealogy services to their wealthiest clients. Of course, it’s not as if many of these job openings exist. But it shows that career opportunities can exist in unexpected places.

  174. I support imposing some qualifications on honors/AP courses. It could be a resources issue, but also allowing students unprepared to do the higher level course work can lower standards for all students in these classes. Obviously there should be some flexibility, but I’m sure schools sometimes feel they must be strict as a result of dealing with too many entitled parents of snowflake students.

  175. “I’m sure schools sometimes feel they must be strict as a result of dealing with too many entitled parents of snowflake students.”

    Having said that, I fought the school for my snowflakes and found the school usually relented. But I don’t necessarily recommend that course of action for everyone.

  176. Having said that, I fought the school for my snowflakes and found the school usually relented. But I don’t necessarily recommend that course of action for everyone.

    In school districts with lots of Totebaggy parents, this is one of the reasons why they may have a strict cut off. If everyone is going to dispute they either have to have a strict cut off or be prepared to offer the AP level classes to everyone.
    If the school district is average they would be willing to be more flexible since they probably have a limited number of students who actually make the cut off and probably not many parents appeal classes if their kids fall a tad bit short.

  177. I support imposing some qualifications on honors/AP courses. It could be a resources issue, but also allowing students unprepared to do the higher level course work can lower standards for all students in these classes. Obviously there should be some flexibility, but I’m sure schools sometimes feel they must be strict as a result of dealing with too many entitled parents of snowflake students.

    I think anyone who wants to take an honors/AP course should be allowed to do so. However, the rigor of the coursework needs to be maintained. Students who are over their heads should be moved out of the classes, the classes shouldn’t be “dumbed down” to accommodate them.

  178. In school districts with lots of Totebaggy parents, this is one of the reasons why they may have a strict cut off. If everyone is going to dispute they either have to have a strict cut off or be prepared to offer the AP level classes to everyone.

    If everyone is able to handle the work of the class, then they should have the opportunity to take it.

  179. DD, my school is attempting to increase AP enrollment of socioeconomically disadvantaged kids. I suggested that they do what my high school did and pay teachers to offer an “open lab” (for assistance, additional/make-up lab work, etc.) roughly every other week for additional pay, depending on the schedule of the teacher and students in the class. The person seeking to increase AP enrollment in my distrct likes the idea, but it may be impossible here because of union contracts, even if they can get the funding (which is another big “if”.)

    In the Totebaggier district we adjoin, supplementary tutoring for AP classes is mostly provided by educated parents, in practice.

  180. “I think anyone who wants to take an honors/AP course should be allowed to do so. However, the rigor of the coursework needs to be maintained. Students who are over their heads should be moved out of the classes, the classes shouldn’t be “dumbed down” to accommodate them.”

    ITA. It’s pretty common in my kids’ school for kids who aren’t sure to try the AP/honors classes, and move down if it’s proving too difficult. Some kids just choose to not take AP/honors the next year; others are accommodated early in the school year.

    “If everyone is able to handle the work of the class, then they should have the opportunity to take it.”

    Yes, while there may be logistical challenges, this should be the goal.

    OTOH, the goal should also be to always challenge even the brightest kids. This would mean moving the bar up on honors classes when appropriate.

  181. Houston – that class rank is quite an accomplishment for your DS at his school, especially given the headache problems he had. Congrats to him! I hope it works out with his first choice.

    I second what someone said above about using Rate My Professor. It is very subjective, obviously, but we only discovered it after my DD ended up dropping a class with a professor who she could not understand, and who could not understand his students questions. Discussion of several other frustrating class management issues, with multiple comments about his poor English making it impossible to ask questions, were in his Rate my professor ratings, and it could have saved her the trouble. I would take just one of two negative comments with a grain of salt, but when 90% of the comments are along the lines of “do not take this professor”, it is something to consider. It is also helpful for comments like “most of the test comes directly off the ‘optional’ review, so whatever you do, make sure you show up for it”

  182. OTOH, the goal should also be to always challenge even the brightest kids. This would mean moving the bar up on honors classes when appropriate.

    The issue is how many kids are there who aren’t being challenged by the “regular honors” class? If it’s enough to have a separate class for them, then do that. If it’s only 5 or 6, then it’s unrealistic to raise the expectations for the other 20 kids to accommodate them.

  183. If/when you have enough kids for two advanced/honors classes, it’s definitely time to look at separating them and raising the bar on one of the classes.

    “If it’s only 5 or 6, then it’s unrealistic to raise the expectations for the other 20 kids to accommodate them.”

    But if you’re over half the class, the bar should begin to go up.

  184. On-line classes may be a good way to adjust the bar for small schools. Every qualified student could be in calculus, but some kids could sign up for AB while some sign up for BC. Similarly, AP computer at least used to have two versions, and the two AP physics exams could be offered as either semester or year long classes. I wish that most of my introductory college courses had gone slower- I would have been able to learn the material better at a slower pace. The fact that science has advanced dramatically in the past 100 years doesn’t mean all of us can learn what has been discovered (in physics, organic chemistry, and materials science, to pick some specific examples) quickly.

  185. I had some informative conversations with mothers of dancers who are seniors over the weekend. Some of the dancers go to the same high school as my kids will likely go to.
    The mothers to a woman were excited to be done with their roles as dance moms. After having supported their kids for many years, they were glad that the end was in sight.

  186. Informative both on high school academics, college admissions and dance.
    Some had girls who are in college so we discussed careers and family. Very Totebaggy

  187. That’s great, Louise. It’s a good idea for you to get to know the parents in your area, because not all advice on this blog will apply to your snowflakes in your specific area. Specific advice about schools, teachers, test dates, etc., are entirely local. Sometimes I get the feeling you’re trying to absorb all the advice on this blog, but the things that are true in Boston or Honolulu might not be true in North Carolina.

  188. The mothers to a woman were excited to be done with their roles as dance moms. After having supported their kids for many years, they were glad that the end was in sight.

    I’m sure most parents whose kids are highly involved in an activity feel this. I’m sure part of them misses it as well, but it has to be a big relief to move on.

  189. True RMS – it also differs by school even in my area. I was surprised when DS was asking about different colleges and acceptance rates. Their school is “college prep”. Apparently the college prep information has already started.

  190. In my high school. we only had AP calculus (only school in the region to have it!) and AP English. Anyone who wanted to take them could, but there was a lot of publicity as to how hard these classes would be and how much homework. So a lot of kids decided they didn’t want to work that hard. At the same time, teachers would quietly tell certain kids they should take the AP. I think that is how it should work, and schools should allocate resources accordingly.

  191. At DD#1 school (~400), pre-AP freshman year is determined by placement testing by the high school in May of 8th Grade year. If you are close to the cut-off and want a second shot, you can take summer boot camp in that subject and retest in August. All future years are based on a combination of grades, standardized test scores, and teacher recommendations. A student must have parents sign a waiver for any more than 3 AP courses at one time.

    However, with a few exceptions, once you are in a pre-AP or AP class, you are there for the year. With a small school the issue is scheduling and there may not be a “regular” class of that subject at that time to move you into. Rearranging your whole schedule may not work either as often there is only 1 section of classes. Last year that was true for AP World History and this year it is true for AB and BC calculus and AP Spanish.

    At DD#2’s high school (~2200), if you are tracking into the IB program if a subject is offered at the pre-AP or AP/IB level you must take it at the higher level except for math. The other exception is if you are doubling up. DD#2 will take pre-AP Chemistry and pre-AP Physics next year. If need be, she can drop one of the two done to regular, but not both. However, many of the kids in her pre-AP Geometry have dropped down to regular and while many had significant schedule changes overall the school could make those accomodations.

  192. My focus is less on expanding access to the top tier than in improving the regular academic/college prep tier so that it better prepares students who are likely to attend 4 year colleges.

    My comfortable middle class Bethesda MD public high school in the 60s. 650 kids to a grade. 5 to 10% took what passed for honors classes. 65% took academic middle of the road. 25% took general/lower level academic. 5 to 10% were hanging on. We only had one African American family and some Hispanics – the gym teacher couldn’t be bothered to learn their names so she called them all Garcia, btw. 95% of the local Anglo Catholic kids were in parochial school. So race and economics were not in play within the school. No special needs in those days, of course, and vocational elsewhere in the county. There was 1 30 kid section of honors English in 11th grade, 1 AP English in 12th grade. Math and Science had natural tracking by class or sequence taken – the highest 12th grade class was pre calc. Lowest academic tier never made it to Chem. I went to college after 11th grade with nothing more than trig, bio and chem. (Stellar SATs used to be a much bigger factor in admissions decisions.) Only other AP besides English was Bio. Social studies had a 12th grade de facto tracking – Lower academic was Problems of the 20th century, middle was Soc/Econ (which I took in 11th grade), and top was European or FarEast/Latin American history. For the bottom 5% of kids there was the option of a half day with a practical curriculum when they were 16 with apprenticeship type jobs to prevent dropping out. Because it was the height of the Vietnam era and before the draft lottery, almost all of the boys went to some sort of deferment eligible college program or enlisted in a less likely to see combat role (one classmate took up the piccolo and landed in a military band). Ohio University for some reason was the non state flagship destination for many of the popular kids, but most kids went to some level of in state public. Also a wide range of privates.

  193. “I’m sure most parents whose kids are highly involved in an activity feel this. I’m sure part of them misses it as well, but it has to be a big relief to move on.”

    Last kid finishes up his youth hockey experience this coming weekend. I am one who will miss it. I have been the go-to for running the scoreboard for his home games the past few years so involved mostly in that sense, this season (which started in Sept) has been very easy since he’s been able to drive himself to all practices and, although ecologically bad, we have also taken 2 cars to his games so I/DW&I have not had to kill the extra time before and after the game while he’s changing.

    Probably mostly seeing/feeling these lasts occur and create a little bit of “Now what?” when staring at empty-nesterdom beginning in ~6mos.

Comments are closed.