What Would Deming Do? And What Happened to Overtime?

I’ve mentioned Edwards Deming before (here). His ideas on cooperation between workers and management enabled Japanese industry to out-compete American industry, which operated on the familiar top-down management model. You are probably well aware of what happened to the US auto, television, and consumer electronics industries as a result.

Deming always said that if front-line workers were messing up, then it was something that management was doing wrong that caused that to happen. Punishing the workers would just make them more resentful, and not improve matters. Training workers well, asking for their input, and giving them the correct tools and support normally eliminates the problem. Any institution that has a revolving door of employees who leave after a year or two (which is what we have more and more often in education these days) is one where management is messed up.

What we are doing in education today in the US is precisely the opposite of everything Deming advocated. Teachers are being demonized as “rotten apples” and are being given tons of mandates and extra busy work to do, and any support that they used to have is being taken away. The answer to any complaint that the might have is that they need to work harder: 14 or 16 hour days, 7 days a week, is seen as the norm.

Andrea Gabor has an excellent article on what Deming would do (thanks to Diane Ravitch and Steve Ruis for brining this to my attention) regarding education today.

I also see that there is a move to allow teachers and many other workers to be paid overtime. This sounds like an excellent idea. Instead of edu-shysters like Eva Moskowitz earning half a million dollars plus, let those poor overworked charter school teachers who work 90 to 100 hours a week make the big bucks! At time-and-a-half for overtime, a nominal 40 hour week for $40,000 a year would earn a teacher who puts in 80 hours a week (which is NOT uncommon at all!) a yearly salary of $120,000 instead!

Fourier Analysis – Done By A Machine With Gears and Levers

Fourier analysis allows your cell phone or MP3 player to transmit your voice and play music without needing huge reel-to-reel tape recorders to store all the sounds and without using enormous amounts of bandwidth. It’s now done electronically, by clever mathematical algorithms that are encoded on the tiny microchips inside your computer or cellphone or iPod or whatever.

The general idea is you take a complex wave-front and you turn it into an infinite series of sine or cosine waves. Believe it or not, it actually makes the data much simpler!

A very simple example. This weird shape


is merely the sum of two cosine waves:


And all of the music you hear (eg a clarinet, which might look like this on an oscilloscope)


can be deconstructed into a whole lot of sines or cosines


About 40 years ago, I did some Fourier transforms by hand in a calculus class. It was time-consuming, but very, very cool.

A full century ago, Albert Michelson had to do a whole bunch of Fourier transforms for some astronomy task. It was too time-consuming to do by hand, so he built a machine with gears, levers and so on to do it for him.

It’s a super-cool analog (as opposed to digital) computer — and there is a fellow who shows you exactly how it works!

His presentation is in four parts. Start with this one, the introduction.

Published in: on November 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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American Teachers are Chewed Up and Spit Out by the System

There is no way for anybody to keep up with all the excellent news articles and commentary showing how completely screwed up the American educational system has become — with the billionaires running the system mostly to blame.

Here are two such articles:




Published in: on November 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two VAMboozlers down, but many more to go

Two of the foremost promoters of the junk science known as VAM (Value-Added Measurements) have just resigned, one in Tennessee and one in Louisiana: Kevin Huffman and John Ayers.

Yay! But there are several dozen more who need to be fired across the country as well.

(Huffman is the ex-husband of the notorious liar and self-promoting former chancellor of DC Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, who is now selling fertilizer. Huffman was once chosen by the pro-EduDeformer Washington Post editorial board as its main educational pundit.)

Audrey Beardsley has the details on her blog, VAMboozled.


A Scathing Review of Joel Klein’s Book on New York Public Schools

Gary Rubenstein has a guest post that gives a devastating review of the many lies and inconsistencies in the recent book by Joel Klein, the recent chancellor of New York City Public Schools. It’s a bit long, but worth reading. Here is the URL:


Is Class Size or Social Promotion the Main Problem?

Leonard Isenberg argues that large class sizes are not the main problem in Los Angeles public schools, but rather the fact that large numbers of students have been socially promoted without understanding the basics of whatever course they supposedly passed. As a result, they become disruptive, he says. A quote:

What causes disruption and no learning in the vast majority of overcrowded classrooms in LAUSD is not the size of the class, but rather the inability of socially promoted students to understand what their teacher is talking about, so that they can be productively engaged in their education. They neither have the language, math, science, or other prior grade level standards mastery necessary to having any chance of achieving anything even remotely resembling productive classroom engagement.
In an LAUSD of the 1950s and 1960s when I went to school, classes were often over 30 and up to 40 on a regular basis. What was different then was that the students in any particular grade were predominantly at grade level and capable of being engaged by their teachers, because they hadn’t been socially promoted, which has now become the rule at LAUSD for far too long.
Your thoughts?

A Revised and Corrected Ad for Koch Industries

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show made a few corrections to an advertisement extolling the enormous Koch corporation — one of their sponsors (sort of). It’s a hilarious and factual improvement on the original ad. Definitely worth watching at the Daily Show, which you can find here. Also, read the Rolling Stone expose of the Koch brothers. These are not nice guys, and they really are attempting to purchase our entire government….

Here is the text of the revised advertisement, if you don’t feel like waiting for the video to load:

We’re Koch industries — not just an energy company.

We’re in your food and in your pants and in your home.

If there’s a way to monetize your thoughts, we’ll find it.

All while backing seventeen shadow organizations to buy elections from Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street.

You won’t always see our names on our campaign ads, because the politicians we own say that’s OK.

With our heartfelt devotion to fossil fuels, we make your planet warmer and your water more flammable, while lubricating your birds and rearranging your polar bears.

We can’t raise your little girl for you, but we can hand-pick her school board and approve her textbooks. And when she lands her first job, we’ll be fighting to reduce the miminum wage. Because we actually believe it [raising the minimum wage] could lead to Naziism.

Yeah. Naziism. We’re that [expletive deleted] out there.

Koch industries: the next generation of robber barons, bending the democratic process to our will since 1980.

Oh, and our brother David likes ballet.

By the way, the Koch brothers were not pleased by the Rolling Stone expose, so they fought back. They couldn’t actually deny any of the facts, but they still got nasty. You can read the response by the author to their criticisms, here.

Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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Charter School Fraud and Abuse

This article in Salon talks about how many charter schools are merely a way for grifters to scam the public and make off with a ton of money… It’s based on a report you can read here:




On fighting back against Arne Duncan, from ‘Busted Pencils’ blog;

An excerpt from a call to arms:

We [college departments of education - gfb]are now going to be responsible for the test scores of children that end up being taught by our graduates. In other words, if my son fails and his teacher was your student, it’s now your fault! And if you don’t make the changes needed to help your students “teach” my son how to do well on his standardized tests you, your department, your school, and/or your college will be slapped and eventually shut down. …

Remember NCLB? Yeah, some of you complained and some of you even managed to turn it into a productive line of research. And what was it that you complained about and what did all that research reveal? You complained that testing would not do anything to the achievement gap, that the curriculum will narrow, that the “least among us” would be hit hardest, and that linking student test scores to teachers and schools was problematic. Then after years of conducting research you found out that all of your complaints were substantiated. The achievement gap still exists, public school children now receive little to no instruction in the arts or the humanities, the children of poverty are bearing the brunt of this misguided ideological attack on public schools and value-added measures of teachers are extremely unreliable and the public reporting of these statistics causes harm to all involved with public education. 

It is our turn to join with the children, parents, teachers and public schools. All across the country there is an “Opt Out” movement occurring. Parents are refusing to allow their children to take standardized tests (hereherehere), teachers are refusing to administer the tests, administrators are speaking out against the negative consequences associated with the tests, and some schools have actually stopped administering the tests. 

What should we do? How should we respond? Who’s willing to be the first teacher educator to say: “No. I opt out too. I will not abandon everything I know about children, teaching learning and schools. I refuse to take part in a rigged political system designed to dismantle public education and thwart democracy.”

Isn’t it our turn to tune in and “opt out”?

I’ll ask again three years later:

Teacher education colleagues are you ready to organize and speak truth to power?  

Can we move beyond simply complaining about Duncan and the reformers?  

Can we look within the profession and demand that our leaders not offer “anxious” compliance?  

Idiotic Math Questions

I was recently helping a student at Wilson SHS in Washington, DC with something called a ‘Paced Interim Assessment’,  written and published by one of our major educational publishing monopolies. It was filled with questions that were pompous, absurd, and filled with errors. Here is one of them.

Given: line p is parallel to line q.

Prove: the measure of angle 1 equals the measure of angle 2. Show all steps of a two-column proof.

goofy parallel line question

The reason I think this problem is goofy is that the “given” information is not needed at all: Angles 1 and 2 are congruent (or have the same measure, or are equal) no matter whether the two lines are parallel or not, by virtue of something we call the Vertical Angles Theorem, and which students by this point have already proved and have been using for a long time. In other words, there is nothing to prove at all.

Is this a simple typographical error, where the author(s) really meant for the student to prove that angle 1 is congruent to angle 3? I don’t know. If so, that would be fairly easy to do – it’s asking the student to prove the alternate exterior angles theorem — but they’ve probably already proved that as well!

Over and over I found the problems in this PIA to be shoddily written and not requiring any thought whatsoever, while at the same time adding lots of extraneous words that will certainly discourage anyone who doesn’t read well. We found about five questions that had no correct answer given, and a few that looked like this:

gppfy angle question

Notice that there is nothing at all given about the relationship between angles ADB and BDC. Is ray DB an angle bisector? We don’t know. Perhaps that was the intention, but it is nowhere stated, so you cannot figure out anything about any of the angles in the diagram whatsoever.

Yeah, I admit to having made up quite a few bad questions in my career as a teacher, but when students pointed out my errors I would graciously thank them for showing me up. Here, I am pretty sure that the student would be penalized for not reading the minds of the low-paid hacks who wrote this trash.

I also tutor students from Sidwell Friends and Saint Alban’s in much the same subjects. What I find is that the students at SF and StA are given problems that require thought — much like the problems I used to assign when I taught at Alice Deal JHS — all of which schools are in Washington, DC.

The idiots in charge of education in Washington, DC Public Schools should be ashamed of how low they have sunk the education of DC’s youngsters. It’s really a travesty.


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