Tuesday Open Thread

It’s Tuesday!

And I’m fuming. I did not watch last night’s GOP Presidential debate, because who needs the aggravation, amirite?

But I could not avoid the astonishing reports of Newt Gingrich’s bald-faced race baiting — and the crowd just eating it up.

Among the lowlights: Newt wants poor children to work as janitors in their own schools, for 1/30th the wage of an adult janitor. What would happen to the janitor who was now out of a job? Newt, that old honey badger, apparently doesn’t give a sh!t. And people applauded this. Actually gave this vile excuse for a human being a standing ovation.

I have no words. So HuffPo’s Jon Ward can summarize it:

It was a moment that will likely be dissected, debated and discussed for some time: a black journalist being booed by an overwhelmingly white audience in a deep South state on Martin Luther King Day, as a white candidate for president talked about the work ethic in low-income, majority black neighborhoods. It’s hard to imagine a more charged few minutes in public life in recent memory.

May this blow up in the GOP’s face. May they realize that what gets applause in South Carolina doesn’t fly across this nation. May poor people, and underemployed people, and the 99% wake up and realize THEY SHOULD NOT BE BLAMED AND SHAMED.

Whew. I feel a tad bit better now.

But this B.S. will not ruin my day! It’s our 14th wedding anniversary. We will have lunch, alone, and enjoy each other’s company. I love my husband more today than on the day I married him. Back then we were young, carefree, broke. In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined our life today: beautiful children, a cozy home, our happy, mundane life, along with some pain, losses and heartache. I am so grateful for all of it, and for having him by my side on every step of this journey.

What’s on your mind today? Chat away!


131 thoughts on “Tuesday Open Thread

  1. tjb

    (reposted from yesterday PM thread)

    I thought she hasn’t written here for a bit and checked her wall on fb. She didn’t post herself, but a message from a friend yesterday suggests that her father has passed away.

    You and your family are in my thoughts, T.

    • thanks for that

      I had written a “thinking of you” note on her wall a few days ago, but had not heard any news.

      I’ll be holding her and her family in my thoughts this week.

  2. Splain to me

    “honey badger”?  I’ve been hearing it a lot lately, in a pretty negative way, and my google fu is coming up with a lot of weasel like mammals.

      • and from Wiki

        In 2011 a video called “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” became a popular Internet meme, achieving over 33 million views on YouTube as of January 2012.[32] The video features footage from the Nat Geo WILD network of honey badgers fighting jackals, invading beehives and eating cobras with voiceover by a character named Randall in a vulgar, effeminate, and sometimes exasperated narration, including the popular line that the honey badger “doesn’t give a shit”.[33] The video has been referenced in an episode of the popular television series Glee and commercials for the video game Madden NFL 12 and Wonderful Pistachios.[34]
        LSU Tigers’ football player Tyrann Mathieu’s nickname is “The Honey Badger”. The nickname became popular during the 2011 college football season, when it was often referenced in the national media. “He takes what he wants” said CBS sportscaster Verne Lundquist of Mathieu, in reference to the Internet meme.[35]

  3. I watched about half the debate

    and caught that part. In general, the Republican debate audiences have been one of the most depressing aspects of the whole presidential race. Agree, that was an incredibly low point. Newt’s misleading in so many ways–among other things, most Americans on food assistance do have at least one wage-earner in the family.

    The sad part is, if Newt put that clip in a campaign ad and showed it all over the country, his standing with Republicans would improve.

  4. and now for something completely different

    For your “truth is stranger than fiction” file:

    A 12-year-old girl who was abducted and beaten by men trying to force her into a marriage was found being guarded by three lions who apparently had chased off her captors, a policeman said Tuesday.

    The girl, missing for a week, had been taken by seven men who wanted to force her to marry one of them, said Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo, speaking by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, about 350 miles southwest of Addis Ababa.

    She was beaten repeatedly before she was found June 9 by police and relatives on the outskirts of Bita Genet, Wondimu said. She had been guarded by the lions for about half a day, he said.

    “They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” Wondimu said.

  5. I continue to shrink

    down another 1.8 for 26.8 lost total…the good news is Kelly and I have lost EXACTLY the same amount of weight… LOL.. keeps things harmonious at home…now onward to 30 pounds by Valentines day, my next mini goal…

    • Good for you

      That is a lot to lose! Are you buying new clothes?

      Are you managing to lose the weight without being hungry a lot?

      • this is but a drop in the bucket

        I need to lost 65 pounds total just to get to the tippy tippy top from where i’m considered just chubby and not obese…if I want to get to the tippy top of what the charts say I need to lose 80… but I’ve set 65 as my goal… and giving myself a year… my mini goals are 30 by Valentines   40 by our Florida trip in April   50 by August 1st and 65 by October 10th which will be one year.

        I’m not too hungry.. Kelly and I are going to WW meetings together and we plan our snacks and our drinks…and it works out ok…we got through the holidays and the NYC trip without any weight gain so that’s something!  

        new clothes will come later… i’m still fat.. 😉  right now i’m just excited I can fit into clothes I had to stop wearing for a year.

        • you are my inspiration!

          since last year i have gained over 10 pounds!  all due to moving, work travel and not having yet established  a good exercise routine.  i had the flu this weekend and didn’t eat for 3 days….actually thankful :)   i am now committed to losing at 15 pounds and that means back to juicing and getting my ass in gear.

          good job Katie and Kellie. thanks for the inspiration!

        • Your pictures

          Look so different. I can’t believe that you can still fit into your old clothes!

          You look awesome. Hope you feel great too. :)

          • honey believe me

            it’s only impressive from the shoulders up

            and I’ve been wearing the same two pairs of pants for years now… i’m just happy to wear clothes I haven’t worn in 3 years….

            Melinda  in the past 5 years I probably gained 50-60 pounds… I have a long long long road ahead of me!

            • I’ve heard

              That we lose weight from the top down. Face thins out first, etc. Which kinda stinks for the pants size, but at least it’s noticeable in photos!

            • katie, darling, love

              you didn’t have 26.8 pounds of excess baggage on your cheeks, neck and shoulders. It might look the most dramatic from the shoulders up, but still!

  6. I’m grading papers

    and I’d like to just shout out to the ether:

    If the papers is supposed to be 1500 words, there is no reason to turn in 500 or 2500.  You can’t possible be that succinct and nothing you have to say can possibly be so profound as to require the extra 1000 words.

    • You will enjoy this, by 9th circuit justice

      Alex Kozinski:


      First, you want to tell the judges right up front that you have a rotten case. The best way to do this is to file a fat brief. So if the rules give you 50 pages, ask for 75, 90, 125–the more the better. Even if you don’t get the extra pages, you will let the judges know you don’t have an argument capable of being presented in a simple, direct, persuasive fashion. Keep in mind that simple arguments are winning arguments; convoluted arguments are sleeping pills on paper.

      But don’t just rely on the length of your brief to telegraph that you haven’t got much of a case. No. Try to come up with something that will annoy the judges, make it difficult for them to read what you have written and make them mistrust whatever they can read. Here are a few suggestions: Bind your brief so that it falls apart when the judge gets about half way through it. Or you could try a little trick recently used by a major law firm: Assemble your brief so that every other page reads upside down. This is likely to induce motion sickness and it’s always a fine idea to have the judge associate your argument with nausea. Also–this is a biggie–make sure your photocopier is low on toner or take a key and scratch the glass so it will put annoying lines on every page.

      Best of all, cheat on the page limit. The Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure not only limit the length of the briefs, but also indicate the type size to be used. This was pretty easy to police when there were two type sizes–pica and elite. But with scalable fonts, these days it is possible to create almost infinite gradations in size of type, the spacing between letters, the spacing between lines and the size of the margins.

      Now if you don’t read briefs for a living, one page of type looks pretty much like another, but you’d be surprised how sensitive you become to small variations in spacing or type size when you read 3,500 pages of briefs a month. Chiseling on the type size has two wonderful advantages: First, it lets you cram in more words, and when judges see a lot of words they immediately think: LOSER, LOSER. You might as well write it in big bold letters on the cover of your brief. But there is also a second advantage: It tells the judges that the lawyer is the type of sleaze ball who is willing to cheat on a small procedural rule and therefore probably will lie about the record or forget to cite controlling authority. So, if you do things just right, you will submit an enormous brief with narrow margins and tiny type, copied  with a defective photocopier onto dingy pages, half of which are bound upside down with a fastener that gives way when the judge is trying to read the brief at 35,000 feet. You can lose your appeal before the judge even reads the first word.

      • We’re ungraded

        so I can’t mark them down- and there’s an expectation that we’ll write lots and lots of comments and questions on each paper.    I’m thinking of creating a comment bank that I can copy and paste from.


        • I’ve done a comment bank…

          I also put in the syllabus that I will not grade or comment on anything that is beyond the page limit.  

          Pending on how you set things up, I’ve found excel to work nicely for the specific comments and then I mail merge into a base intro.  I like excel for the comment bank too :)  But it does add a “merge” step that may not be worth it pending how many you have.

        • A prof of mine

          announced that he would stop reading at the page limit.  No exceptions.  And if we really felt a need to write more than that, we should make sure to cram all the important stuff in before the page limit because he would not see or grade anything in the “appendix”.  I never went over, but I was told he would write “sentence fragment” or “needs conclusion” at the bottom of the last page he read, and strikethrough the rest.

          Of course this was in the days before scalable fonts.  All we could do was mess with the margins.  

    • Love it

      Sharing it with my BFF who is a history prof, second day of the semester, and she’s already miserable. I keep telling her she needs a new line of work, but she’s glad she has any academic job these days.

  7. Grumpy

    Probably because I’ve just come off my antidepressants, but still. I’m grumpy because every single ad on the TV/radio seems to be “You’re so fat! You need to use this miracle product right now!” and I haven’t yet figured out how to eat every 2 hours without eating too much so I am gaining too much weight  but obviously none of the suggested solutions are a good idea for me! (Actually, I’m also grumpy because I need to buy a new scale that doesn’t do body composition, so I don’t actually know how much I’m gaining.) I’m grumpy because the increased boobage is getting in my way. I’m grumpy because so far Expat’s main observable reactions to being a dad are to start calling me “mom” all the time and bring up how awful it is that I can’t drink every time he does. I’m grumpy because one of my FB friends just posted an article about how having a pet dog or cat get on your bed or ever lick you will give you plague, meningitis, cat scratch fever, MRSA, and a million other things–all compiled from news reports around the world like “a baby got meningitis after a cat stole its pacifier and played with it.” (First off, didn’t the parents sterilize it? Second, is it because the cat touched it, or because it was on the floor?) I’m grumpy over politics. I’m grumpy because I taught a full-day workshop on Sunday [that I’ve been teaching three times a year for four years] and the person who made our handouts for some unexplained reason copied about 50% different handouts than we usually use (half the handouts we had, aren’t ones we use; and half the handouts we use, weren’t there). I’m grumpy that you can check library books out for 3 weeks with indefinite renewals, but Kindle books only for 10 days with no renewal, and that my library only has 1 copy of most Kindle books so the wait can be months, even for older books. Also I’m grumpy because the library’s website only allows you to search for books you could read/hear on the device you’re searching with, and the algorithm is completely screwed up, so I can’t search for Kindle library books on either my cell phone or my Kindle’s browser. I’m grumpy because our TV and satellite box’s sensors aren’t sensitive enough that I can sit on the couch and use the remote without all sorts of contorting (my living room is big, but not that big). I’m grumpy because I know I’m at risk for GD and the only taste/smell thing I’m getting so far is that everything tastes far less sweet than it used to, but I’m trying to resist sugaring/honeying/sweetening things for obvious reasons. I’m grumpy that medical professionals in this area seem to assume you should be able to figure out this pregnancy thing on your own and there’s no reason for a medical professional to even talk to you about it until you’re at least 10 weeks. (I mean, shouldn’t someone say “um, you know you should stop drinking and smoking and eat your veggies, right?”) I’m grumpy because most of the adorable things that one would use to decorate a nursery are mostly dangerous (like crib bedding). I’m grumpy because we didn’t get the home office painted before I got pregnant. I’m grumpy because my house is an overwhelming disaster. I’m grumpy because I’m still living in @#!($ New Mexico and I’m the only one who dies a little bit more every day I’m stuck here.

      • Oh

        and I never sterilized the paci once it hit the floor. I did what all mom’s do, cleaned it off in my mouth before returning it to the baby.

        Oh, and I painted the baby’s room when I was 8 1/2 months preggers. I painted it. Not DH. Didn’t use low VOC stuff, either.

        • Well, the baby’s room is painted.

          It’s blue, and it’s staying blue. I’m mostly frustrated because we’ve had the paint for the office sitting in the garage waiting for like a year and a half. It’s the last unpainted room in the house.

          I probably wouldn’t sterilize a pacifier either in general (who am I kidding?) after it fell on the floor but knowing cats, it probably disappeared under the refrigerator or something, and that seems like a more likely source of disease than the cat’s paw.

          • I am totally not worried

            Actually, that was sort of my point. One baby who got meningitis from a paci the cat touched is not proof that cats should be kept away from babies.

            • You also have to wonder

              if they were really able to prove it was the pacifier that was the source.

              Who knows what else the kid might have stuck in their mouth that never got tested.

    • can’t speak to a lot of this

      but if the dog & cat thing was anywhere near real I’d be long dead by now.  Our running joke lately is that we’re actually sleeping in our elderly cat’s bed, and her desire to lick us has increased exponentially with age (we don’t know why).  And we’re fine.

      • My mother in law actually asked

        if we would be getting rid of the cat when I was pregnant with #1.   I’m still laughing at her about it.

        • ours is 17

          Poor DH is totally skeeved by cat tongue, and always has been (I hope no one FBs him that article).  She’s really his, but I think part of the reason she’s been getting closer to me over the last year or so is that I let her lick as much as she wants.

        • So icky…

          We have one that is fixated on skin, but prefers it with a coating of body hair.  When the boys are home, she angles for them whenever possible.

                • That sounds like our cat

                  Our calico mix does the same thing, although mostly during the day (and with so much leg hair in combination with shorts wearing in this house, the head is just an afterthought).  We think it might be the breed, since we’ve never had a calico in the house before.  When the boys are at school, she’s all over DH… I kid him that she’s trying to bust up my marriage:)

    • Throw away your scale.

      Just throw the fucking thing away.  You’re pregnant.  Try to eat a healthy diet and remind yourself that there have been billions of pregnancies before this one.  

      • Yes

        This.  And let yourself be as G-D grumpy as you want to be ’cause right now you’re GROWING AN EFFING HUMAN BEING.

        That’s trumps everything else.  Do you have trashy tv to watch?  I gorged on Buffy reruns when I was pregnant and I stalked around like I was a freaking slayer.  You get to do whatever the hell you want.

        • Books

          I read 3 books on my day off yesterday. I mean, two of them had already started and the other was young-adult so it was relatively short, but still.

      • yes. this.

        and when they weigh you at the doctors turn around and don’t let them tell you.  I legit don’t know how much I weight when pregnant or how much I gained… I just flat out never knew… there’s no rule that says you have to…

      • Well, that’s great advice if

        you’re not already 70 pounds overweight with a family history of high blood pressure, diabetes, and premature births.

        I mean, I’m not stressing about it, but it’s something I want to keep an eye on.

        • You’ll be able

          You’ll be able to eat well and still not gain that much. I think you’re right to keep your eye on it.

          With my first pg, I was about 30 lbs overweight, and I only gained 20 lbs. I didn’t gain anything during the first trimester.

          Then with my second pg, I started at normal weight and gained 50, winding up at the same exact number at the end. Go figure!

          • You’re supposed to gain more the less you start

            at. Women who are underweight should gain more than women of normal weight, who should gain more than women who are overweight, who should gain more than women who are obese. I think that partly happens naturally, because there’s more fat stores for the baby to take so you don’t want as much food.

            • Right

              If you’re overweight, you don’t need the fat stores. The weight gain recs are quite low now for overweight/obese women, I think 15 lbs?

              If you think about it, even in the third trimester, I think you only need 300 calories more than your maintenance level of calories, for the baby. It’s really not a lot when you think about it.

              It was just fascinating to me that I ended up at literally the exact same number at the end of both pregnancies, even though I started 30 lbs lighter with the first.

        • I hear that

          With Gus, I was about 45 pounds overweight. I failed my one-hour glucose but he was born before I could take the three-hour. I gained 28 pounds with him, and he was born at 28 weeks.

          With Susanna, I was 55 pounds overweight, got gestational diabetes, ending up gaining 15 pounds but losing three before she was born. And I was nearly 40. All kinds of weird situations result in good pregnancies and fine babies.

          If you aren’t seeing prenatal specialists, I really recommend it. I saw a team when I was pregnant with Sanna, and they were so reassuring and accommodating to an anxious mom. A world of difference from the docs I saw with Gus.

          • *snort*

            I’m surprised there was a reproductive endocrinologist in this city–and when I say “a” I mean he’s the only one. So really, this pregnancy is going to be an exercise in learning not to get anxious because there is nothing I can do about it. I like my ob-gyn, although if I’m not having twins I’m seriously considering going to the new birthing center staffed by midwives that just opened. I have hospital phobia, even though the hospital my ob-gyn has privileges at is supposed to be the best for L&D.

    • Don’t

      worry about the weight.  Just don’t.   Chances are you may gain a bunch in the 1st tri but then not see a whole lot more gain  until the very end.

      It sounds like you are already looking at a GD diet though.  Have you   contacted a nutritionist and mention PCOS and pregnancy?  I bet they will be happy to talk to you.

      I think most OBs are pretty relaxed about that first appt.   I was high risk my 2nd pregnancy and I LOOVED the attention I got.  However…you don’t want to be high risk really so maybe contact your RE and see if you can talk to them.  Regular OBs don’t always get the anxiety that may accompany a pregnancy after infertility.

      good luck w/ the other stuff.  This is why I avoid FaceSpace Interwebs as much as possible.  Too much noise.

      • Oh I’m still under my RE’s care

        until I pass 10 weeks. That’s the only reason I’m getting an ultrasound at 6w3d. But the nurse was like “oh, there’s no reason to see or talk to a doctor at all before 10 weeks normally.” And I love my RE and his staff, but, um, if I didn’t have you ladies I would be so completely and totally lost it’s not even funny. I can’t imagine having to go through most of the first trimester with no guidance whatsoever.

        I tend to eat relatively low-carb in general, but I’ve been slacking a little lately and especially with being pregnant. Still trying to keep up with the veggies, protein, and fat, but more carb-y snacks.

        I am really, really annoyed at how much less I enjoy pickles, which are normally one of my favorite foods.

        • I think it has to do with

          there not really being much to see before that point.  If they try to find the heartbeat and they don’t then you’d flip out – it’s hard to find before that point.  

          Honestly, for most pregnancies there’s not much to do other than follow your body’s cues – doctors are kind of there for the ride and somewhat useless.  

          The vast majority of the stuff you need to know, you already know.    

          • Oh I totally get that

            and I know the really important stuff like alcohol and smoking, and can Google questions like “should I avoid cleaning with bleach?” (the answer is “no”), but how many women don’t?

            • Right at this

              very moment I am working with some data from a survey of childbearing women in CA.

              I do think most know it is best not to drink or smoke during pregnancy. The issue may more be people who don’t know they are pregnant yet, or have trouble quitting (mainly smoking).

          • Yup.

            I have very early ultrasounds of my kids because of the weird uterus thing (if they had attached at the wrong spot, it would have been bad). In the early ones, there’s a yolk sac. A yolk sac. On a human being. I don’t know why that always weirded me out. But there’s a blob that’s the yolk sac and a tiny pinprick that is the baby. Pretty pointless unless you’re looking for implantation spots!

      • That’s easy to say if you don’t

        live thousands of miles from everyone you care about.

        Actually this particular friend (the father of one of my closest friends from college) is one of the main reasons I love Facebook. After she moved away from her family, obviously I stopped having as much contact with her parents, but I love them dearly. I’d totally adopt them if I could.

        • Oh I know, I was just kidding

          That’s what I say to everyone who gets annoyed with Facebook.

          I have a friend who has a major complaint about something that happened on FB at least once a week, where we will spend an hour just talking it through and processing it. It’s fascinating to me how she doesn’t just quit.

          I actually do have friends and family all over the world, as neither of my parents are from here and my HS friends scattered all over. I use email, works for me, although I see the appeal of FB too.

          • Are you on FB?

            I thought you weren’t, but in the MT FB group there’s a woman who’s from NJ and I was like “huh, I didn’t think anyone else but NJMom was from NJ, I wonder if that’s her?”

            • Nope

              Not me. It just irritated me lol

              I think there was another person from NJ on here but I’m not sure she posts here anymore, hasn’t for a while I think.

          • you know though

            some FB stuff irritates me so I hide the people…and I learn to live with it.. I mean plenty of thigns I love have things about it that irritate me to but that’s life.  

            I  think FB was made for people like me who are extroverts… I lovez to be teh social… LOL

  8. It’s 23 degrees outside

    Don’t you think that’s just a little cold for shorts?  My son does not; he went to school wearing the same basketball shorts and hoodie sweatshirt he wears when it’s 90°.

    • 16 here

      That’s about as cold as it has ever gotten. Fingers crossed that when it thaws (if it thaws) later today that all the pipes are still intact, that our last pass through on weatherizing everything was effective.

    • I had a friend

      like that in college.  Unlike our many transplanted Hawaiians who complained no end about the cold, this transplanted Texan seemed to embrace it.  He wore shorts under his trenchcoat and looked like a flasher for the entire winter.  Every winter.

      • University does weird things to people

        I knew guys who wore shorts and sandals throughout university and it was freaking cold and snowy…and they rode their bikes too.   In several feet of snow.  

      • ah

        Pity we didn’t have a heavy rain to flood the blacktop first.  The third grade hall floods best of all, sometimes enough to need plywood bridges, and DS’s teacher is smart enough to recognize when the kids need a little extra time to hang up their jackets.  That would be awesome.  

          • All outdoors

            All the classrooms are on individual wings that open to the outside.

            I don’t think there are any indoor halls in any of our elementary schools. The junior highs and high school have indoor halls.

          • yes

            Our elementary school is I think now the oldest in town, and it shows.  When I was doing the reading program I would sometimes walk along the top of the garden wall past the low spot between the book room and the third grade classrooms to keep my shoes dry.  (That’s what the kids do to get to the restrooms, since no self respecting third grader would go around the long way just to stay dry.)  Of course if it was raining I’d also be trying to keep the book basket dry.  The open campus gives the school a very different atmosphere from what I experienced growing up, so I don’t mind getting wet now and then.  

            • We had

              an open campus high school here in NJ. It was pretty cool actually. You had to bring a coat, but it was nice getting the fresh air between classes.

              Now they’ve covered it all in and made hallways, boo.

    • My husband would.

      Then he wears his parka on top. It’s insane, but I give up. Apparently he’s been dressing that way since high school. High of 13 here today.

  9. SO excited

    for my BF. She’s been working on a song (I have the demo on repeat right now – it is AWESOME!) for Epic Records. Hoping they buy it from her – they’re looking for stuff for the winner of the X Factor to sing since she doesn’t write. Fingers crossed LA Reid (who is listening to it TODAY, I think) likes it!!!!!!!

    (Yes, I live vicariously through her as I sit here playing Words with Friends and cleaning my house. 😉  )

  10. I hate recycling

    I should be bundling the recycling up for pickup right now.

    I. Just. Can’t. Make. Myself. Do. It.

    Will rent dumpster in spring and just throw it all in there.

    • We discovered that

      we can take the cardboard to a recycling center unbundled. Which is good because our city requires that for pickup, cardboard be tied in bundles exactly 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 1 foot high. WTF?

      • Yeah

        That’s what I was just facing, one million boxes from the holidays stacked up in the garage, waiting to be bundled into 4x2s with twine. Uh, no.

        They graciously do pick up things like cereal boxes etc if they are just shoved in a bin, so I did that.

        • oy

          We just throw everything — glass, plastic, newspapers, etc. — into a big garbage can and it gets collected once a week. If stuff is too big (like, say, a refrigerator box) we can haul it down to a central collection point.

  11. Who likes to read studies again?

    Tell me why this one is stupid, please?


    ‘Cause the conclusion drawn in the edusphere is that students who get higher test scores are going to earn a lot more money and that, therefore, the only teachers who shouldn’t be fired are those whose students are getting higher test scores.


    The idiocy to the conclusion goes without saying (’cause high test scores usually reflect affluence and affluence tends to breed affluence, blah blah blah) but I need a reason why the study is flawed so I can discredit it.


    • Hmm

      I had only a very quick look. The thing with value-added is you are theoretically adjusting for the differential impact of affluence because you are taking the baseline difference into account and only measuring differences from the starting point, so it should account for some of that problem. They are looking at, given the population you have, how much can you increase the scores, not just these teachers have X scores while those teachers have Y scores (and it’s all due to background differences in the population). So I think it’s an improvement over some earlier methodology at least but there are probably still other things going on.

      One thing I notice just on first glance is that statistically significant differences don’t necessarily mean real-world relevance and the values they point to, while statistically significant, are not great. For example, an increase in college attendance from an overall baseline of 36% increases by 0.5 percentage points based on a change in teacher VA by one standard deviation. A standard deviation is a rather large change in VA and all you get out of that is a half a percentage point increase in college attendance? Yes, highly statistically significant because they have a big sample, but how meaningful is it?

      Anyway, that’s just a quick initial thought.

    • I don’t think it’s stupid

      I was a little confused (didn’t read the whole report thoroughly although I was interested enough to print the monster out and will read it eventually) about what seemed to be very small effect sizes translating into sizable classwide-earnings over time. So an individual might earn an extra $52k over their working life, which isn’t a huge amount, but when you multiple that by 25 or so it ends up being $1.6 million (or so — can’t remember exact numbers).

      The value-added approach controls for extraneous factors, since the same kids are tested year after year. So you can technically have “good” teachers — ones who add value as measured by standardized test scores — and poor teachers working with the same SES groups. Though there are more “poor” teachers in low SES schools on average.

      Since it’s written by economists, their solution is to have parents raise lots of money to retain “good” teachers, arguing that their children will earn it back many times over during their working lives.

      I found it interesting that they were able to find a practical way to differentiate the high VA teachers, because when it was just based on test scores I couldn’t figure out why anyone would give a shite.

      • p.s.

        Here’s a nice analysis by Michael Winerip, who notes that (some?) of the data used for the paper was collected in the 90s, before standardized testing became so high-stakes.

        I don’t think it changes the finding that having a “poor” teacher for a year is equivalent to a student missing 40% of the school year, but it does, hopefully, put the brakes on an argument coming out of this that more, and more hysterical, testing is the way to ensure kids are learning.

      • What I couldn’t see

        though I’m not good at reading these things, is how they controlled for parental SES.  I mean, I know that it’s assumed they did, but how do they do it?

        • With this methodology

          It’s looking at the per-teacher gain, not the overall score. So that should make SES less important. I will try to look at it again later though.

          But … If i inderstand VA correctly, it looks across the students per teacher and says, Under this teacher, percentile gains went up 3 points, under that one they did not gain, under that one they lost 2 points. Something like that. It should not matter what percentile the class started at (in other words, whether it is a wealthy or poor school) if that is how you are looking at it. Unless your entire class is already at the 99th percentile or 0 percentile, there is room to gain or lose (although my guess is they put mean score in the model anyway which would take care of adjusting for that). So the VA method should adjust for where the class started and just look at based on that starting point, how did they change in a given year.

          • I find

            our comments really interesting. I understand probably less than half of them. I rarely have enough data to even consider statistical treatment and have literally no experience with it. To my shame I have to admit that I somehow never took a single stats class. There is so much more in the work than I would ever see. Thanks!

            • Thanks

              I couldn’t follow your work either, I’m sure!

              I don’t do ed stats but I do public health stats so the methods part is familiar to me, and having kids (and a spouse who works in education finance / budget / legislation) helps with the content piece.

          • So do they also control

            for the economy, world events, etc?  I know, for example, that my kids’ teaches have commented that there are more kids coming in hungry/ cold/ tired etc and that it’s having a real impact on learning.  They’re nervous about the test scores because they aren’t covering as much ground since it takes longer to get everyone going.  

            • I think

              If what you are looking at is percentile changes (and I need to look at the paper again to verify that that is what they were looking at), then that should probably be factored in. The underlying assumption is a given student is going to stay on their percentile – right? If you are a kid who scored in the 60th percentile last year, on average the next year you will be in the 60th percentile also. If your family loses their home and you are homeless for several months chances are you are going to slip. But if on average the whole country is doing poorly, that shouldn’t really matter because we are looking at the population as a whole. It might be that all kids in the country don’t advance much in this economy, but what the model is looking at is change relative to the norm; maybe this kid didn’t advance much, but neither did the population as a whole.

              On the other hand, I suppose if a teacher happens to have an unusually large number of students who suddenly face serious problems (let’s say a plant closes in a small town and a bunch of parents in that school are suddenly out of work with few other options), then that school as a whole, and that teacher’s students, might as a group go down, and if so that situation is going to reflect badly on the teacher’s value-added. If they put into the model some overall SES measures at the individual or school level (for example, does this student get FRPL or what is the school’s level of reduced price lunch) that should help reduce that error though.

              VA is not a perfect measure of a given teacher’s impact. But because it is looking at per-teacher change relative to a pre-existing baseline, it’s way better I think than what they used to do, which is say “Teacher X in this rich suburb has students who score well, so she’s a good teacher, and teacher Y in a poor rural/inner city area must be a bad teacher because her students do poorly.” It’s not perfect but it’s definitely an improvement over past methods from what I can tell.

              • how scalable is this method?

                Is this something that only works on a small dataset with careful analysis, or is the expectation that you can eventually plug batch scores into a software package?  Because you know where they’re going with this – they want to pour a bucket of student numbers into a computer and have it spit out a list of teachers to discipline or fire.  I think an aggregate delta is a valid measure of teacher performance if we can be sure we’re doing it right, but if we’re going to “hold teachers accountable” (boy do I hate that phrase/attitude) we’d better be darn sure we’re doing it right.

                What would really be nice would be if instead of reporting individual average gains/losses, it would identify those teachers who showed disproportional gains with the top or the bottom students.  You know some teachers must be especially talented with the remedial students while others spur the advanced ones further; it would be great if we could match teacher gifts to student needs.  

                • I think on the micro level

                  i.e. the school level, it is known already, don’t you? I was at a meeting at DS1’s school last night and afterward another parent was telling me how Mrs. —- is known to be so great with the students who have a particular problem, so she always gets all of them. Maybe that’s more anecdotal and this could provide some better data on it but it seems to me like it’s one of those things that people on the school level do pay attention to, and try to match kids to teachers who will work best for them inasmuch as they possibly can.

                  On scalability, I suspect it’s better done on the large scale (if done carefully of course) than the small scale just because you are going to end up with a lot of variability at the small level that is hard to control for, like Laura’s comment about her husband having some slower classes and some quicker classes just depending on the year. But I agree with you on what direction it could head, and that’s what the LA Times already did with it that caused so much controversy (including a teacher suicide which may have been directly related to having his name listed in the “bad” column).

                  • they do

                    And I greatly admire our school’s ability to pair students with exactly the right teacher.  Kindy is mostly random, obviously, but they’ve nailed the best teacher for DS1 5 out of 5 times.  DS2 is a harder nut to crack, but I can at least understand why they guessed wrong last year and they’ve finally got him right this year.  And I saw lots of well behaved boys go to the teacher with the reputation for having trouble controlling wild boys, etc.  

                    Good point downthread about grouping all of a certain type of kid into one classroom.  Not only does it make one classroom more challenging for everyone, but it risks singling out those kids far too early, which we don’t want to do. So you’re probably right about letting each school doing this with their own soft data, not quantitative scores.

            • Had another quick look

              The data are from a single large urban district for grades 3-8 over 1989-2009 (and yes they are measuring test scores per student). So, overall should not be really affected by big regional differences in things like income. But on the other hand also don’t have the variability that a geographically larger dataset would have. Big numbers (2.5 million students and 18 million tests for math and English over the 20 year period).

              Their earnings outcomes are based on W-2 records for the follow up period, matching observations from the school data (kind of amazing they are able to do that, based on my own experiences with sensitive data). College attendance is based on enrollment records for all universities (a form they all complete) that they also matched to the school data. They look at earnings projections based on college attended and income by zip code, 401Ks, teenage births. They link kids to their parents by their tax records and start with parent characteristics as a predictor of student scores.

              They find that parent income is a strong predictor of score, but is uncorrelated with the value-added for the teacher (in other words, teacher value-added isn’t affected by the SES of the class she is teaching). * This is the big answer to the questions you have been asking; i.e. teacher value-added is not dependent on having a more affluent class.

              Sociodemographic measures they include are ethnicity, age, gender, special ed, limited English proficiency, free/reduced price lunch. So they have adjusted for all those differences that exist across teachers’ sets of students. They only measure students who are in the data set at least two years so they have a prior year (baseline) to start with.

              They also drop the top 2% of performers based on concerns there might be suspicious gains in test scores.

              Really this is quite an amazing dataset. Purely from a research perspective I’m amazed they were able to link all those data sets together and obtain all that confidential data to link.

        • One thing that occurs to me

          is that kids are not randomly distributed across teachers – some are good at working with the more challenging ones so get more of those – but on further thought, since they are still starting by looking at the baseline (where they were last year, so how they came into the class), it should still take care of that, just like with SES differences.

          If you get a kid who was in the 15th percentile last year, does he stay in the 15th the following year, move up to the 17th, move down to the 13th? Those are the kinds of changes they are looking at.

          • that was a complaint that

            came up when the L.A. Times published an article, with photos, about VA and 3 teachers in particular. One was a very popular teacher at a high-achieving, relatively wealthy school whose VA was negative. Everyone was shocked.

            One was a teacher known for being able to handle behaviorally disruptive students well, so as you’ve hypothesized, many of the school’s students in that profile ended up with him. He also had a negative VA. My guess is that with a room full of such kids, everyone’s learning was reduced. But the learning of students in other classrooms, who didn’t deal with the disruptions, had a better chance of being stronger.

            The third was the high VA dude: A fairly young, male, Hispanic teacher who worked with a low SES population.

            The other thing about the Harvard study is their sample size of (Austin Powers voice) One Miilliion, over 20 years. If you can’t find some kind of correlations with that data set, I’d be surprised.  

            • Right

              I agree on the impact of classmates as well – I don’t think this model would control for that although I have to look at it more closely when I’m not supposed to be working :)

              Your last comment is similar to my point about the statistical significance. When you have a sample size this large everything is going to be statistically significant. What you then have to do as a reader is use your brain rather than the p-values :) and ask whether the impact is a “clinically” (or whatever the right term would be in edu-speak rather than clinical) meaningful one. In a clinical trial you can have a statistically significant difference between two groups taking two different medications. See, this med must be better! – but then when you look at the results, maybe only 2 percent more people were helped by this drug, but it costs 3 times as much. This kind of thing is a concern when you have a sample size so large that everything comes out significant.

                • p-value

                  That’s the probability that something is due to chance.

                  Typically, statistical significance is assessed at p<.05. In other words, there is a less than 5% chance that what you are seeing is just a random quirk. If p<.05 then we find a statistically significant difference between two groups (or two sets of observations on the same group).</p>

                  P-values are dependent on both the sample size and the size of the effect (HOW different are the two groups – for example measuring the height difference between 1st graders and 8th graders you are going to see a large difference, which no matter how small your sample size would probably be statistically significant. On the other hand if you are measuring height difference between 6th grade boys and 6th grade girls, there is not going to be a large difference and you might need a very large sample size to see a statistically significant difference).

                  Often with a very large sample size you are going to get a p-value much smaller than .05, like p<.00001. That says that there is only a tiny probability that this is not a “real” difference between the two populations.</p>

          • I wonder how they control

            for normal variations in development?  The 7 year leap, the 10 year leap..they don’t all come on schedule.  DH has had classes where the kids just got stuff earlier- partly because of their affluence, partly because they were developmentally further along…there was never any rhyme or reason to it.  He’s had years where everyone made big gains and years where he felt he was pulling teeth just to get anywhere.

            I’m sure they control for that, (maybe by looking at larger data sets?  Doesn’t a larger N make for more reliable conclusions?) but I can’t imagine how.

            • Well

              Since classes are age-dependent, to some degree that should be controlled by the fact that they are looking across classrooms among all 7 year olds or all 10 year olds (I don’t know what ages they were looking at, but…). If you are comparing all 4th grade teachers, for example, their students should, relatively speaking, be gaining at approximately the same rate. They don’t all come on schedule but on the whole it should be a wash, particularly if you look at more than one year of data. Maybe one year you have a class heavy on kids who aren’t “there” yet, but if you look over 10 or 20 years of a teaching career you should also get other years where that isn’t the case and it should average out. I wouldn’t want to do this on a very small number of years or students. The large sample size over the years should wash out a lot of the economic and developmental quirks that can hit any given particular class though.

      • they do this sort of analysis here

        for the Victorian school system. We don’t have annual standardized tests, but there’s a test usually administered around seventh grade called the General Achievement Test (GAT) that’s used for assessing a student’s knowledge in preparation for the year 12 exams that determine university entrance as well as HS graduation. In addition to the student assessment part, they’ve found a way to assess teacher value add becaues the GAT is supposed to predict a future score on the final year exams. The department of education has determined a methodology that asssessed the teacher’s value add if a student outperforms their expected future score on the final year exams.

        My SIL and BIL are both high school teachers and teach at year seven and year 12. I’ll brag on them – the assessment shows that they are consistenly high value-add teachers. They often have students at year seven and again at year 12 (because they’ve worked for the same schools) and their students consistently outperform.

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