8th-grade girls bested boys on an engineering and technology test

Bias against girls who are interested in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) starts early, and lasts long…

That’s why it’s such a big deal that this week, the federal government announced that eighth-grade girls performed better than eighth-grade boys on a new test measuring technology and engineering literacy.

The test, administered in 2014 to 21,500 students at 840 public and private schools, was a brand new part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also called the Nation’s Report Card.

Girls scored 3 points better than boys overall, and even higher in some categories. Girls outscored boys by 5 points on questions dealing with communication and collaboration, and by 6 points on questions about information and communication technology…

It would be really unusual to see girls doing this well on regular science or math tests in eighth grade, said Peggy Carr…of the National Center for Education Statistics…

Fourth grade? Sure. Boys and girls perform about the same on science and math assessments at that age. But by eighth grade, Carr said, you see the boys starting to overtake the girls. And by 12th grade, the boys are scoring higher. Maybe it’s “math phobia,” maybe it’s self-fulfilling prophecies of lower teacher expectations.

But whatever causes this achievement gap, it vanishes on this new test. That may be because its subject matter and methods are pretty groundbreaking, and not like other standardized tests.

And the assessment is based on immersive, scenario-based tasks — like creating a museum exhibit about Chicago’s history with water pollution, or designing experiments to figure out why a fictional class pet iguana named Iggy isn’t feeling well…

Carr said the test wasn’t intended to address gender disparities. It was just supposed to be about making sure students are equipped to deal with a modern world full of constantly changing technology, and to confront a future that will require technology to solve some of its biggest challenges, like energy and transportation.

But it’s definitely “food for thought,” Carr said, that the hands-on, collaborative design of the test seemed to help out girls so much…

Carr said she’s also interested to see what happens when the test is given to 12th-graders, and whether girls will still do as well when they reach their senior year.

What this points out to me is a lesser issue to some – those who construct tests by rote stuck into models that often pre-date electricity-based communications. Testing as an evaluation of teaching methods isn’t villainous by definition. Crappy tests are.

Fear of standards is too often expressed as criticism of social and cultural rigidity. Again, something that can be a realistic concern; but, not a cornerstone for deciding on science versus “hurt feelings” in building a progressive education system.

Something we stopped doing over a half-century ago.

There’s a Senate bill limiting the FBI’s power to remotely spy on you — think it will become law?

thought-police-21

In the wake of its encryption battle with Apple over the San Bernadino shooting, the FBI’s request to access remote computers with search warrants has been granted, pending judicial rule. That’s drawn the ire of several bipartisan senators, who have introduced the “Stop Mass Hacking Act” to block access…

Introduced by Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and Rand Paul (R-Ken.), the one-page bill aims to undo the recent judicial ruling adopted in the Supreme Court. Legal experts believe the ruling dramatically expands the power of U.S. judges in issuing search warrants, as well as in granting the FBI unfettered access to any remote computer — even overseas…

The new ruling could give the FBI full access to remote computers with just a search warrant. Opposition from the Senate and elsewhere highlights the ongoing debate over law enforcement’s need to adapt to modern technology, versus the rights of individual citizens to be protected from prying eyes…

In the last six months of 2015, the U.S. law enforcement agencies requested information on nearly 5,200 Apple accounts, and some data was disclosed in 82 percent of those cases.

You might wish to nudge your own senators to sign on to the bill. So far, three have – one Republican, two Democrats. A pretty small number, so far, considering how much elected officials blather about caring for individual liberties.

cc: Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich

This is how fascism comes to Great America

Trumpolini

The Republican Party’s attempt to treat Donald Trump as a normal political candidate would be laughable were it not so perilous to the republic. If only he would mouth the party’s “conservative” principles, all would be well.

But of course the entire Trump phenomenon has nothing to do with policy or ideology. It has nothing to do with the Republican Party, either, except in its historic role as incubator of this singular threat to our democracy. Trump has transcended the party that produced him. His growing army of supporters no longer cares about the party…Their allegiance is to him and him alone.

And the source of allegiance? We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily. What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence. His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up…

This phenomenon has arisen in other democratic and quasi-democratic countries over the past century, and it has generally been called “fascism.”…Successful fascism was not about policies but about the strongman, the leader (Il Duce, Der Führer), in whom could be entrusted the fate of the nation. Whatever the problem, he could fix it. Whatever the threat, internal or external, he could vanquish it, and it was unnecessary for him to explain how…

This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes…but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him.

RTFA. Robert Kagan says it all.