So… how to donate to DC2’s classrooms this year?

In Kindergarten and First Grade, we donated $1K anonymously to DC2’s classroom teachers for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”.  We would like to do that again this year.

The problem is that DC2 skipped second grade.  And DC2 is the *only* kid who skipped second grade.  If the third grade teachers get the same gift cards that the K and 1st grade teachers got last year and the second grade teachers don’t, it will be pretty obvious who the anonymous donor is.  And we really don’t want to seem like we’re buying favors from the school.

So here’s my crazy thought.

Give the second grade teachers the same gift cards for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”, and give the third grade teachers slightly different cards (or maybe just one card to share) with no such restrictions.  After all, DC2 is more on-level this year and they’re doing a pretty good job with differentiation in math (though there’s a very real chance that they will run out of packets for DC2 sometime after winter break, even assuming a slow-down in the rate zie is going).

Then next year, only give the unrestricted donation to the fourth grade teachers.

DH was initially confused by this idea– DC2 isn’t in the second grade class.  Why donate?  But then he decided he didn’t like the idea of it seeming like we’re bribing them for DC2 skipping a grade and has warmed up to the idea.

The alternative is to not give at all.  Or to give something less useful than cash gift cards.

What do you think?

Skipping Second Grade?

This summer we planned for DC2 to take the tests to skip second grade. Zie obviously knew all the English material in second grade and was constantly complaining about not learning anything last year in first.  The one problem being that hir Spanish was not yet that great and could probably use another year of immersion in dual language before having to start doing things like writing paragraphs in Spanish.  (We also determined that the Kindergarten teacher who was so deadset against us skipping first grade blatantly lied about what would be required in second grade– paragraphs in Spanish did not happen at the end of first grade or beginning of second.  Zie could have skipped first grade with no problem.)

10 people had tried to skip the previous summer and none of them passed, and we read comments online that the tests for skipping first and second were bizarre and harder than the tests for skipping later grades because for the later grades they just use something based heavily on the state exams, where as the K-2 exams are all from a private company.  This is borne out in the passing rates for the district– almost nobody skips 1st and 2nd and a higher percentage of the people who try skip later grades (5th grade skipping being most prevalent).  So we didn’t necessarily think that DC2 would pass the tests this summer, but we thought it would be good to see what happened and maybe good practice for next summer’s tests.

But then zie did pass, even the social studies test that they made people take first because it had such a low passing rate (Robert Fulton showed up on the exam– he was on the study guide as well and I’m afraid I gave DC2 a rather impassioned economic history lecture on his importance as well as the difference between invention and innovation… I have to wonder how many adults who didn’t take economic history in college hear Robert Fulton and automatically think steam engine).  Zie passed two of the tests on the first try and was borderline on the next two, so we set up to retake them a month later and zie got high passing marks the second time around (our district allows two tries).

So we set up a meeting with the school counselor and the third grade teachers.  Unlike DC2’s K teacher, hir first grade teachers and school counselor were very supportive about DC2 skipping.  They’d spent much of last year assuming zie would skip and gave hir 2nd grade’s math homework in Spanish each week with hir first grade assignments.  At the meeting with the counselor and new teachers, the counselor read off a statement from them about DC2’s grit (also hir intelligence, but the emphasis was on grit).  The third grade teachers told us to be sure to warn hir that zie might not know everything and would have to work harder in Spanish, but they seemed to have no other concerns.

We were still concerned about Spanish, and also DC2 was concerned about leaving hir little group of 3 friends.  Hir best friend, the only other GT kid going into dual-language 2nd grade in our school, was especially broken up about DC2 not being in the same class.  This wasn’t a problem when DC1 skipped a grade because the school skipped both hir and hir best friend at the same time.  But there are a few things that mitigate this concern– first, most playtime happens in after school club, where all three kids are still going (along with an inconceivably immature fourth kid in their playgroup who hates and perpetually bullies (and thankfully perpetually gets in trouble for bullying, unlike when I grew up) DC2 but has been good friends with one of the other kids in their group since preschool); second there’s no guarantee that zie would be in the same class with both hir friends anyway since there are two dual-language classes (zie would be with the other G/T kids because they cluster-group); and third… DC2’s friends are all of the opposite gender, zie never really hit it off with any of the kids hir same gender in 2nd grade, but did occasionally play in after school with older kids the same gender.  While it is possible that zie will stay friends with them throughout K-12, it’s equally possible that they’ll hit the age in which kids segregate by gender and in that case it would be helpful for DC2 to be around more kids zie enjoys being with.

Because of these concerns, we asked if we could do a one month trial in third grade to see how it worked out.

It has been working out beautifully.  DC2 comes back super happy every day, talking about things zie has learned (starting the second week, the first week no learning occurred and zie kept saying zie wanted to go back to 2nd because zie heard the teachers were nicer).  The math homework is still below hir level, but still at the stage where it is good practice rather than pointless.  In class, they independently do math packets that go through third grade work, and by the end of the first month DC2 was on #8 out of 15.  Zie is also the only kid who has gotten a speed certificate for addition so far and is 84% of the way to getting a speed certificate for subtraction according to their online testing program.  (The teachers told the class that only two kids got all four addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by the end of the year last year.)  (They have a points system for these extra things, and each cluster of four tables combines their points in order to get prizes– the teacher moved DC2 to a table with only 2 other kids and they still have the most points because of hir math stuff– DC1 has 320 points and the other two kids at the table have 80 combined.)

We have, unfortunately, gotten a couple of calls from the “nice” teacher about DC2 crying when asked to predict things in English Language Arts.  Zie will get the prediction correct but then would burst into tears when asked to explain why.  This is unusual for DC2, but very much the norm for DC1 who is much older and gets silent and sullen rather than crying these days when asked to have an opinion or to support an opinion, so DH doesn’t think it’s age-related.  I’m still a bit confused because this is not like DC2 at all (who is more likely to get frustrated than sad when challenged), and when questioned DC2 did not think it was anywhere near as big a deal as the teacher did.  The “strict” teacher has had no such problems with DC2, so my suspicion is that DC2 just needed some time to hirself to calm down rather than being asked about hir feelings etc.  Since they’ve moved onto inferences (which are somehow different from predictions?), apparently this poor behavior has stopped.  DH has also started working with DC2 on the ambiguity kind of stuff using the Once Upon a Time game (sponsored amazon link, though we actually have the black and white 1st edition which was a birthday gift I bought for teenage DH but he didn’t actually appreciate until some years after DC1 was born) for some Improv lessons and using a 3rd grade ELA workbook to work on predictions specifically.

We didn’t realize a month was over until 6 weeks had actually passed.  By that point, it seemed like we might as well wait another couple of weeks for the parent/teacher conferences.  The first report card came, and zie earned in the upper 90s for all the graded subjects and Meets Expectations for all the ungraded subjects.  So… we’ll see what happens.

RBOC

  • This summer has not been great for a number of reasons, which has led to increased anxiety.
  • My anxiety has started affecting my teeth!  For the first time I’m showing evidence of grinding!
  • DC1 is in an AP class this year, but cannot sign up for an online account which is required for class because zie is 12 years old and the FTCs COPPA rule prohibits them from collecting information.  (If you’re in this situation, this FAQ says what to do:  https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/join-your-class-online. This is incorrect, as we found out.)  This whole AP class as a freshman thing is bizarre to me– in my day you did no AP courses until junior and senior year and then you drowned in testing.  So… maybe this is better.
  • After being told that DC1 is 12 (because we needed the form), DC1’s AP teacher cornered hir in the hallway and asked if zie was absolutely sure zie was ready for an AP class.  It being only the second day of class, DC1 did not know what to say.
  • The AP director called the College Board and they said that FAQ was incorrect and we have to call to get the form.  Which… they could have sent to us when we called to ask why DC1 couldn’t register(!)  SIGH.
  • After being put on hold 6 or 7 times, they said they would email the form to us in 2-3 days.  I suspect they do not know where said form is.  We have a case number in case we need to call day 3 to ask where the form is.
  • We did have to call on day 5 to ask.  It came on day 6.  Then we got an incomprehensible email response after we sent the form in and after not getting clarification when we questioned, we ended up having to call again.  Now we are on day 7 of the 7 days that we were supposed to wait before calling about the account not actually being created.
  • the account was not created in day 7 and now we have a new case number to check on the account creation case.
  • There are 42 students in DC1’s Algebra II class.  That seems like a lot.
  • There are 18 students in DC2’s third grade dual language section.  That seems like not many!  Last year there were 21 in hir first grade section which seems more normal.  I guess more dual language kids move out of district than move in (generally only Spanish-speakers can move into dual language)?  Or maybe there are demographic differences by year in the number of Spanish-speaking kids in the district (which determines how many sections of dual language there are).  DC2 says there are two new kids in hir class besides hir, which is nice so that zie isn’t the only one.
  • DC1 has been watching an old Standard Deviants Spanish dvd, and it has a very young Kerry Washington in it!

RBOC

  • The other SIL also decided to stay at home from this summer’s vacation.
  • I found out when DC2 brought home all hir school stuff that zie had written an essay on “my Christmas vacation” that had me staying at home.  I did not stay at home for that!  I only stay at home for the summer vacation!  What must her teachers have thought?
  • As DC2 gets into the terrible 7s, I have more and more sympathy for Mrs. Bennett and her Poor Nerves.
  • We’re replacing the fan in our 17 year old refrigerator again.  $83.43.  I asked DH if he wouldn’t rather have a newer fridge and he said no.  (In terms of environmental concerns, we have a low-end energy star fridge and we would probably replace it with a higher end one.  The last time I ran the efficiency numbers switching wasn’t helping much in terms of day-to-day, so we didn’t think it worth the costs of creating a new fridge.  We could replace with another low-end fridge, but I didn’t run those numbers.  I think that was a couple of years ago though, and the numbers may have changed.)
  • After having been especially trying at daycamp dropoff and having privileges rescinded (a very rare occurrence!), DC2 came home (after enjoying hirself fully at daycamp), remembered the lost privileges, shut hirself in hir bedroom, and started sadly playing hir new harmonica.
  • UGH, stupid HR sending me an email that I didn’t have the stupid wellness credit stuff done so I had to login and look up my stupid password and check even though I’ve had it done since forever and it doesn’t expire until after the school year starts.  Don’t send me incorrect information!
  • I feel like Hannah B would have benefited from watching Frozen prior to this season of the bachelor.
  • Anna rhymes with Hannah and is also a palindrome.
  • DC2 passed the test to skip 2nd grade and now we need to decide whether to do that even though hir Spanish isn’t great yet, or to wait another year.  (More people skip 3rd grade and the test is supposed to be easier.)

Ask the grumpies: Masters programs

Anoninmass asks:

Applying for a Master’s program and it feels so difficult and annoying yet I cannot seem to get ahead without it….why???

Some professions have so many people interested that they can require a masters degree (see:  social work, library science, other “helping” kinds of jobs).

Some professions, particularly in government, require a masters degree that teaches management kinds of skills for getting ahead.  Management is a different skill-set than being a police officer or fire fighter and so on, so these kinds of jobs will require new skills taught in masters programs for getting promoted to management.

I’m not sure why the teaching masters degree is rewarded.  Presumably it’s teaching skills that help in the classroom?  But it’s also not required except in California, so I don’t know.  It seems to be something desired by teachers unions, not school districts.  So… I dunno.

I will mention that masters applications are down this year across the board (the labor market is tightening), so it should be easier than usual to get in!  Our masters program has rolling admissions this year which is unusual for us (last year we had record numbers).

Good luck!

Ask the grumpies: Private vs. public colleges

Sandy L. asks

Cost benefit of public vs private college. What is the value of the network, etc.

The question isn’t really about public vs. private.  Berkeley is going to open a lot more doors and have a much more impressive network than the expensive small regional private liberal arts college one of my sisters-in-law went to.  The question is really about the prestige of the school.  There’s a lot of interesting new research on that topic.  And the answer is that, first off, we don’t really know, and second off, it is nuanced.

In general, for your white upper-class/upper-middle-class kid, it doesn’t really matter where they go.  Harvard, top flagship, regional state school– it just doesn’t matter.

For your lower income family, minority, etc. etc. etc. student, it can matter quite a bit.

But even with that mattering, some schools are better than others at elevating kids into higher socioeconomic status.  And some schools (like Harvey Mudd) are phenomenal at elevating low SES kids, but don’t actually admit very many of them (that $72K/year sticker fee and all).

I’m too lazy to source and cite this, but if you’re interested in finding out more, flip through the NBER working papers abstracts for the education group.  If you need to narrow your search window down, Carolyn Hoxby is a good place to start– she’s written extensively on this topic and cites a lot of the other work that has been and is being done.

Facts and Opinions are not the same thing: Part 2

Part one from five years ago at the private school where they do not teach untruths about the civil war but still do not understand the difference between objective statements and opinions.

As promised, DC1 ended the semester being tested on the idea that the cause of the civil war was not reaaaaalllly slavery, but state rights.

I read out the reasons for the civil war given by the southerners who withdrew from the union.  They are PRETTY CLEAR that it was about slavery.  On top of that, South Carolina was pretty pissed off about NY getting to keep its state right of not allowing people to be property in its borders so that Southerners couldn’t take slaves with them to do business in NY.

Then DC1 said, “people have a lot of different opinions”.

And that led to a really lengthy discussion about what is an opinion and what is an untrue statement of fact.  DH and I threw around a lot of terms like “subjective” and “objective”.  Also “hypothesis”.  We talked about climate change.

It drives me nuts that people label incorrect statements as “opinions” and don’t seem to understand the difference between objective truths (which are true no matter what we believe, but sadly cannot always be tested) and subjective opinions.  (“Can an opinion ever be wrong?” DC1 asked. “Sure,” I said, “Saying ‘Eggnog is the best drink in the world’ is an example of a wrong opinion.”)  And this is codified in the South through the K-12 system and reinforced by Fox News.  It is in the airwaves.  I hate it.  And I don’t want to have to add it to my stats class, but maybe I should.

Last year I asked my grad students if we should spend some time on what is “fake news” and they all said no, they understood.  This year they’re not as sure.  Last year “fake news” really was fake– spewed out by what we now know were Russian bots.  This year Republicans have labeled reputable news organizations as “fake news” so it’s more confusing.  On top of that, even formerly reputable news organizations like WSJ have been taken over by ideologues so there’s a lot of crud coming out.  (NYTimes has always had a contingent of crud, and NPR started to kind of suck a couple of years ago.)

How do you all deal with the difference?