Friday, October 2, 2009

Is Oxbridge really beginning to discriminate against private schools?

Is Oxbridge really beginning to discriminate against private schools?: "

Punting There has been much gnashing of teeth recently at private schools. Many seem convinced that the top universities - and particularly Oxbridge - are discriminating against them, in favour of state school candidates. It's an interesting supposition, and one which is worrying many parents. Here John O'Leary, author of the Good University Guide, looks not at the emotions, but the evidence...

"There is a widespread assumption in independent schools that the odds are now stacked against them at many colleges in Oxford and Cambridge – just as many in state schools have always believed the opposite.

Such suspicions should be easy to allay since both universities publish their admissions statistics in great detail. The trouble is that the numbers are so small that a few decisions this way or that can produce seemingly dramatic swings.

In 2008, for example, the proportion of state-educated entrants to Oxford leapt by more than 2 per cent. Was this the dons finally succumbing to pressure to discriminate against privileged schools? No, it was normal service being resumed after a decline in state school enrolments the previous year. The switch involved a total of 50 out of more than 10,000 applicants.

Discerning patterns in the selection policies of individual colleges is, thus, even more uncertain – especially when enrolments are affected by the number of places each can offer in different subjects. Independent schools produce nearly three times as many applicants as the state sector for Oxford classics degrees, whereas three-quarters of applications for law come from the state sector.

That said, there are colleges that year after year take significantly more than average from the state or independent sectors. At Oxford, Brasenose has taken less than 40 per cent of its entrants from maintained schools or colleges over the past three years, while St John’s has taken almost 65 per cent, when the average has been 54 per cent.

Often, such differences become self-fulfilling prophecies, as schools draw their own conclusions and pass them on to candidates. The proportion of state-educated applicants at St John’s is consistently among the highest of all the Oxford colleges, while Brasenose has among the lowest.

The same is true, not surprisingly, at Cambridge, where more than 80 per cent of  last year’s applications and acceptances at Lucy Cavendish were from the state sector, but that applied to barely half of the applications and only 42 per cent of the acceptances at Peterhouse. Even Clare, one of the colleges that pioneered a system giving extra attention to applicants from low-performing schools, awarded a minority of places to state-educated candidates in 2008, although it took a much higher proportion the previous year.

Because the numbers applying to each college are so small, it is dangerous to base any assumptions on a single year. Oxford publishes three-year averages, as well as the most recent figures, and statistics from previous years are not hard to find on either university’s website.

Even plumping for a college with a record of high admissions from the state or independent sector is a risky strategy – your carefully chosen college may be trying to redress that balance. And, while colleges do have a distinctive character, the dons who carry out the interviews are all different. Every college recruits from both sectors, so any tutor will advise you to try the one that attracts you.

One trend that might be worth noting, however, is when the proportion of candidates admitted from one sector or the other is out of line with a college’s applications. Again, there are complications when a college takes large numbers from the ‘pool’ of applicants passed on by their first choices. But over the last three years at Oxford, for example, a clear majority of applicants to St Edmund Hall have been from independent schools, but more than half of the places have gone to state-educated students. At New College, the gap is narrower but the trend has been in the opposite direction.

See applications and offers to Oxford Colleges

See applications and offers to Cambridge Colleges

Read School Gate:

A student explodes the Oxbridge myths

Which is better, Oxford or Cambridge? Two graduates discuss...

The easiest colleges to get into at Cambridge

Is studying at Oxford or Cambridge more expensive than at other universities?


Will There Be A War In Asia? -

Read this and despair...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Healthcare Napkins All

This is a pretty good explanation of the Health Care debate. The presentation is really well done and worth looking at.

Google Wave Will Revolutionize Online Classroom Instruction

I just got my invite for Google Wave this morning and am really excited, but since I don't have anyone to work with yet, it's sort of just sitting there...

Google Wave Will Revolutionize Online Classroom Instruction: "


Today is the day. Thousands of new users will be presented with the opportunity to get their hands on Google Wave.

What is Google Wave?

Google Wave is a brand new technology that positions itself  as the way Email would have been made if it were invented today. (Watch the 1:20:12 long video clip)

Imagine a combination between Email, IM, Twitter, Facebook, and Skype all bundled into one. Now imagine it being drag-and-drop easy, live-updated, and being constantly improved. Then throw on top of that an eager community of developers seeking ways to make it even easier to use and more powerful.

Cool, but what does it look like?

I haven’t gotten my invitation yet, but am eagerly awaiting one soon. Lifehacker has a great Google Wave First Look that they posted today. It has some really cool pictures that help you get a better idea of what’s going on. Back when it was announced on May 28th, Mashable posted Google Wave: A Complete Guide.

And how could it be used in my classroom?

Here are some of the uses I can see

  • Replace wikis

    I know a lot of teachers out there use wikis, and they are useful. I like the functionality that they pose, but I also know there are some challenges they have. One nice feature of Google Wave is that it allows a combination of public as well as private communication within a wave.

  • Playback

    Ever been absent during an extended group project? Wonder what you missed? The playback function of Google Wave is amazing in that it allows you to see step-by-step what has happened in the development of the wave. This can also come in handy for the teacher to see how well groups are working together and how much participation is going on.

  • Group work

    One of the huge advantages to Google Wave is that each person in the wave can edit things at the same time. We’ve all been in groups where one person writes, another person thinks, and the other people sleep. I also remember some group work on computers where so much time was wasted trying to find the right font. What if Font girl is responsible for making it look pretty, smart guy is responsible for doing research, and keyboarding goober is responsible for typing it all in? Everyone could be assigned a specific role and work on the same project together.

  • Teacher involvement

    The way I see it, each group would be set up by the teacher and each wave would include the teacher as well as the students in the group. One reason I didn’t like group work when I was in school was because I either did way more or way less work than the other people in the group. If an individual student has a complaint for the teacher, he can simply private message the teacher, explain the problem, and then the teacher can view the playback and see that the other students may not be working as hard. Tattling has never been this simple!

  • Publishing (Embedding)

    After a project is completed, it can be embedded into a website or Facebook group page or something. Yes, there are even plugins to embed waves into blog posts (at least for WordPress and Blogger).

So needless to say, I am excited about this new project and looking forward to seeing how I can use it both personally as well as in my teaching. It won’t be an overnight transformation, and I don’t see email being abolished completely, but I do see it as a pivotal point in the development of online communications.

How do others see Google Wave impacting education?

I thought I would do a quick blog search to see what other people are talking on this subject:

Related Articles:


Texas Math Teacher Makes Homework Optional and Only 5 of 45 Parents Request It

I cannot say I'm 100% behind the no homework movement, but I think it's such an interesting concept that I can't stop reading about it:

Texas Math Teacher Makes Homework Optional and Only 5 of 45 Parents Request It: "

The other day, I was thrilled to receive an email from Jason, a 4th grade math and science teacher in Houston, Texas, who told me that, after doing a lot of research and thinking, he had decided to make homework optional in his class. This was quite a turnaround for the Jason who posted several comments on this blog last spring. (He also posts as ACP Texan.) In one of his early Comments in March, he wrote:

I teach 4th grade math and science. Much of what I teach is basic skills. As any athlete or musician will tell you, developing basic skills is about practice, practice, practice. If I assign my class to complete a sheet of two-digit by two-digit multiplication problems for homework, I do not care what their motivation for completing it is…. [T]the students will be better at the skill after having completed the work.

By May, he was really grappling with new ideas and he wrote in one of his Comments:

I want to assure you I do not have an ego attached to any of these ideas. I’m completely willing to throw away everything I’ve always thought and try to do better. I’m still new to this teaching thing so I was kind of operating on the, “just do what has always been done and make it through the day” approach. Now that I’m finishing up this year I think I’m ready to make some changes in the way I do things.

Jason told me that this summer he did more reading, including The Homework Myth, Understanding By Design, The Trouble With Boys, A Framework For Understanding Povertyand Getting To Got It. “As a result I asked my principal for permission to make homework optional for my students this year. To her credit, she had read Rethinking Homework and was very open to new ideas. Of my 45 students, only 5 parents responded asking that the homework continue to be sent home. Here is the letter that went home with my students at the beginning of this school year”:

Dear Parents,

I have asked permission from my administration, and have been granted the freedom to institute a homework policy for my classes that is more aligned with current research. I have done this for several reasons:

1. It has come to my attention that homework often encroaches on “family time.”

2. I understand that parents, after a full day of work, may not want to spend the limited time they have with their children acting as task masters to see that the homework gets done.

3. The frustration, anxiety, and fighting that often results because of homework outweighs any benefit homework might have.

4. Research indicates that group homework (same homework for all students) may have little to no academic value at the elementary level.

Here is how the policy will work:

· The district math and science homework will not be sent home except by parent request.

· Whether a student completes or does not complete the district homework will have no impact on their grade.

· There will be no rewards or negative consequences for completing or not completing the district math and science homework.

· All students will receive an “S” under the conduct heading “completes homework.”

· All district math and science homework will be available for download on my website at all times.

· On occasion students will be asked to finish, at home, assignments that were not completed in class.


Monday, September 28, 2009

The Jetsons

Just ran across this little gem: the Violent Femmes playing Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah

'eBay for teachers' makes its debut - USA Today

From "Online Learning Update"

'eBay for teachers' makes its debut - USA Today: "A new startup thinks it can help fix the USA's under-funded and overtaxed education system. EduFire fancies itself as an eBay for teachers. The one-year-old site has recruited and attracted more than 5,000 teachers, who offer 150 to 200 online classes a day to some 30,000 students. The courses typically are in language, test preparation and technology training. Most classes are free, but teachers have the option of charging for others, and pocketing 85% of the fee. A SuperPass of $30 per month gives students unlimited access to all courses.


The Mesopotamians

They Might Be Giants: pretty much my favorite band. They are uber-geeky, science loving, experimental hipsters (in the best sense of the phrase). Here Comes Science is a masterpiece and now I run across an older song on the Mesopotamians. Just watch, listen and enjoy.