Purtilo

Aug 232017
 

The Sun tells what everyone already pretty much knows: fewer than half of the students in Maryland public schools are on track for college readiness, according to latest PARCC scores, or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. This is grim news given that the instrument is itself only the most basic indicator of college preparation.

Preparation is worst where the state spent most. Quoting the linked article:

In Baltimore, math scores held steady while English scores inched up. Still, fewer city students passed the exams than in neighboring districts. Only about three of every 20 city students in grades three through eight passed both math and English. Almost 12 percent passed math, about the same as last year. Fifteen percent passed English, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from last year.

Maryland implements spending plans, not education plans. For those keeping score, the state dramatically ramped up funding for public schools over the last twenty five years, measuring its success by how much it spends, not what students can do as a result of their often not-so-close encounters with schools. As a result, the present news will be viewed by officials as a success … after all, the checks cleared, which was the whole point. Too bad for parents who thought their taxes were supposed to have been buying more than teacher union fealty.

Anyone who thinks this doesn’t impact us at College Park is kidding himself. This is a campus that lists skin color and orientation (among other characteristics) among ways an applicant can be deemed prepared for the flagship, so dismal PARCC scores which don’t factor in those characteristics won’t significantly affect our admission practices. We will maintain business as usual at the front door. But the professoriate in charge of generating scholarship will increasingly struggle in the face of a student base that similarly struggles with preparation. Time spent back-filling substandard education coming in to the flagship is time not spent pushing back the frontiers of knowledge in our respective disciplines.

All this is a recipe for implosion. The entrepreneurial mindset of public school officials does not stop at our front door; overall we continue to increase tuition beyond sensible limits, basically just raking in cash because it is on the table. Thoughtful people watch this knowing it is not sustainable. We have previously pointed out here how the bubble is already bursting around us, and we thus say it again: the market will reach a tipping point, after which consumers will demand to know why they pay so much for such poor outcomes, often in restrictive environments that negate the entire argument for campus as a place of free expression and thought in the first place.

We’re doing it wrong.

 Posted by at 12:31 pm on August 23, 2017
Aug 082017
 

A nice bit of analysis by folks at CMU, in support of the Center for Democracy & Technology, exposes that a VPN service is apparently selling user traffic for commercial purposes.

Usually people seek a VPN in order not to have their web and mail interactions mined for profiling by operations they never heard of. It isn’t like web sites don’t track an immense amount of data that can be used for … almost anything. But at least when users visit a site they can make an informed decision about what to share. Not so with a provider like Verizon or Comcast, which can harvest your open data flows. VPNs limit that potential. Unless they’re in cahoots with advertisers and other entities too.

 Posted by at 3:19 pm on August 8, 2017
Jul 122017
 

An article in Scientific American summarizes what lots of us observe: Students are Better Off without a Laptop in the Classroom.

We hope nobody here is shocked by this revelation. Kids use devices to mess with social media rather than for purposes of supporting instruction? Good gosh … who’d have thought …

Scholars will try new approaches in education, assess carefully and use what works by objective criteria. Of course, here we have instructors who will stampede the herd toward one or another trendy idea because it validates their notion of what ought to be done, not because they know it works. (We’ll see it when we know it, I guess.) We have administrators who promote the tech since it sounds cheaper than investing in quality people – for them tech is a replacement, or at least a force multiplier. And what about tech company support for computers in the classroom? Gee, those would be the companies that have built a business model around convincing people that tech is good? Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t look kindly on the above study either.

 Posted by at 12:52 pm on July 12, 2017
Jul 062017
 

The labor market is evolving quickly; how we prepare young people to enter it isn’t.

Vocational Ed, Reborn tells about the evolution under way now. At least in some places, even if not Maryland where officials see students as means of sustaining business models that serve them, not consumers whose future needs might be better served if only we got out of our comfort zones a bit. Maryland educators continue to eschew the word “vocational” in our programs. Here it is called career and technology education.

 Posted by at 9:29 am on July 6, 2017
Jul 062017
 

We love tracking the unwelcome consequences of policy decisions that are made under a banner of righteousness but which bring surprises to those who weren’t listening to scholars who tried to point out what was in the fine print. This one’s a doozy.

National Review points out Discarded solar panels are piling up all over the world, and they represent a major threat to the environment. If you only measure the value of solar power from after the panels are up and before they come down, then probably there is a net plus – plus or minus those awkward moments when the sun isn’t shining of course. If you only drive forward with that in mind, the surprise waiting you is a net loss to our environment’s health, since the cost of procuring the more exotic materials needed for these panels is great (a lot more waste water, a lot of pollution) and the discarded panels pile up rather than become recycled. (Also batteries, this is not a prime consideration in the linked article.)

Scholars would want to objectively weight the lifecycle properties and make sound decisions; cherry picking your results is something you only do to justify outcomes you’ve already figured out. That may be good for your wallet if you’re in the enviro business, but it isn’t necessarily good for the environment.

 Posted by at 8:19 am on July 6, 2017
Jun 282017
 

Study finds pay for public college presidents up 5.3 percent confirms once again that it’s good to be king … err … president.

5.3 might be the mean for presidential bumps last year, but once again Maryland leads the way, as (according to the Diamondback reporting of salaries, which may be time-shifted due to how long it takes for public information to trickle out to the public) Wallace Loh jumped almost 15 percent in the last cycle ($526,590.30 to $600,314.00). The 2013 report listed him at $459,000.

Not bad for an era through which most of us have labored under wage freezes imposed by the state.

 Posted by at 8:25 am on June 28, 2017
Jun 202017
 

A Supreme Court decision this week took a little step back toward sanity in allowing people some bit of flexibility in what it is they can do with “stuff” they buy. In this case it was with ink cartridges for printers, but it will be applied in more ways we trust.

Who’d have thought you didn’t have freedom to do things with such tangible products? The companies that want to use intellectual property and contract laws to prevent you from doing things other than pay money on their products. Read up on it at New technology is eroding your right to tinker with things you own.

This still doesn’t help much on software, which today you almost never are able to buy – only to pay for license, which gives the product creator control over what you do with it. What’s important is not what you want to do but what he wants to do, they argue.

 Posted by at 7:58 pm on June 20, 2017