Video of the day

I haven’t watched the whole thing, but what happens in the first 20 seconds is truly mind-blowing:

The value of a major

This Planet Money story summarizes findings from an amazingly comprehensive Georgetown study on college majors and earnings.  Here’s the summary chart:

Income by major

Of course, that’s only 20 majors and I really wanted to know how Political Science fares.  I followed the link to the full report (which is not searchable) and found Political Science the hard way.  Here it is:



Not too shabby.  Presumably somewhere modestly above the middle.  And we sure show those Sociology majors!  For those of you contemplating a major– time for Petroleum Engineering.  We actually had a very good department in that back at Texas Tech.  I remember having a student who had come over from Qatar to study the subject at Texas Tech (and obviously learned some American government while he was at it).  

Photo of the day

Via David Pogue’s (great NYT technology columnist and frequent host of NOVA) FB feed, this amazing collection of street art.  Had a fabulous time looking at these with my kids.  This one was my favorite.  Definitely check out the whole slideshow.


(No attribution for photo provided at source)

How not to assess teaching

Via the WP Education Blog, this is truly astounding.  It’s hard to believe Florida legislators have come up with a policy so stupid.  I guess I can be glad that NC did not copy this?  (It’s a somewhat extended excerpt, but seriously, just take the whole minute and read it)

Here’s the crazy story of Kim Cook, a teacher at Irby Elementary, a K-2 school which feeds into Alachua Elementary, for grades 3-5, just down the road in Alachua, Fla. She was recently chosen by the teachers at her school as their Teacher of the Year.

Her plight stems back to last spring when the Florida Legislature passed Senate Bill 736, which mandates that 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation must be based on student scores on the state’s standardized tests, a method known as the value-added model, orVAM. It is essentially a formula that supposedly tells how much “value” a teacher has added to a student’s test score. Assessment experts say it is a terrible way to evaluate teachers but it has still been adopted by many states with the support of the Obama administration.

Since Cook’s school only goes through second grade, her school district is using the FCAT scores from the third graders at Alachua Elementary School to determine the VAM score for every teacher at her school.

Alachua Elementary School did not do well in 2011-12 evaluations that just came out; it received a D. Under the VAM model, the state awarded that school — and Cook’s school, by default — 10 points out of 100 for their D.

In this school district, there are three components to teacher evaluations:

1. A lesson study worth 20 percent. In the lesson study, small groups of teachers work together to create an exemplary lesson, observe one of the teachers implement it, critique the teacher’s performance and discuss improvement.

2. Principal appraisal worth 40 percent of overall score.

3. VAM data (scores from the standardized Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores for elementary schools) worth 40 percent of the overall score.

Cook received full points on her lesson study: 100 x .20 (20%) = 20 points
Cook received an 88/100 from her former principal: 88/100 x .40  (40%) = 35.2 points
On VAM data — points awarded by the state for the FCAT scores at Alachua Elementary School: 10/100 x .40 (40%) = 4 points

Total points that she received: 59.2 (Unsatisfactory)

Here’s what Cook wrote to me in an e-mail:

I have almost 25 years of experience as a teacher. I JUST got my 2011-2012 evaluation on Friday. There is a real possibility that I will receive an unsatisfactory evaluation for this school year. I may go up to “needs improvement”, but either way, my job is in jeopardy.

Last month, the faculty and staff at my school voted for me as Irby Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year. I am so honored to have been chosen. I work with an amazing group of teachers. They are the most hardworking and talented group of women I have had the privilege to know. Yet every single teacher at my school received an evaluation of “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory” because of this insane system that the Republican state legislators and Gov. [Rick] Scott dreamed up at the beckoning of Jeb Bush and ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council]. My colleagues and I deserve better than this.”

Truly unreal.  Dumbest education policy ever?

Gender and the Harvard Business School

Found this NYT piece on the role of gender at the Harvard Business School absolutely fascinating.  Among other things, it totally re-affirmed my many negative beliefs about business school.  The crux of the problem:

The country’s premier business training ground was trying to solve a seemingly intractable problem. Year after year, women who had arrived with the same test scores and grades as men fell behind. Attracting and retaining female professors was a losing battle; from 2006 to 2007, a third of the female junior faculty left.

The faculty part is definitely quite hard, but as for the performance of female students, some really determined efforts by the Harvard administration seemed to have made a huge difference.  That said, it seems that there’s a highly problematic culture at HSB that cannot be truly eliminated by administrative action:

After years of observation, administrators and professors agreed that one particular factor was torpedoing female class participation grades: women, especially single women, often felt they had to choose between academic and social success…

The men at the top of the heap worked in finance, drove luxury cars and advertised lavish weekend getaways on Instagram, many students observed in interviews. Some belonged to the so-called Section X, an on-again-off-again secret society of ultrawealthy, mostly male, mostly international students known for decadent parties and travel.

Women were more likely to be sized up on how they looked, Ms. Navab and others found. Many of them dressed as if Marc Jacobs were staging a photo shoot in a Technology and Operations Management class. Judging from comments from male friends about other women (“She’s kind of hot, but she’s so assertive”), Ms. Navab feared that seeming too ambitious could hurt what she half-jokingly called her “social cap,” referring to capitalization.

In many ways, a distressing and depressing portrait.  Even among these highest of achieving women, they are highly motivated to grab a husband from among their classmates (personally, about the last place I’d want a spouse from).  And the, men, my God, you just take the worst aspects of competitive male behavior and put them on steroids, and you seem to have HSB.  What a dreadful environment.  Why don’t women succeed at the same rate as men?  To me, it’s because (fortunately) women are less likely to have as many or be as extreme in the anti-social (oh, they are very sociable– anti-social in the bad for society sense) traits that seem to characterize so many of these men (i.e., look at the size of my hedge fund and my vacation home, baby).  Anyway, very interesting stuff.  And yet more reason I don’t ever see myself recommending business school for any of my advisees.

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