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Unread 06-12-2012, 11:55 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Originally Posted by Astrokid248 View Post
If that wasn't the case, I'd have skipped English and History entirely, because beyond making me well rounded, those classes are useless to me.
Makes you a better conversationalist though... ;o)

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I categorize AP and SAT teams separate from state mandated standardized testing. My comments are all in reference to the TAKS test. And the TAKS test is built for the lowest common denominator. Here's a fun solution: if you can pass AP English, you are exempt from the TAKS English test. That would solve about 90% of the problem right there.
But would you not panic if it was the first comprehensive test that you had EVER taken? I totally agree about the AP/TAKS English thing.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:03 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Originally Posted by Andrew Schreiber View Post
State mandated testing bothers me primarily because it is also used as a gauge for teacher quality. I will admit we need to ensure quality teachers and that the students are learning. The issue is that a student's score on a test is not indicative of the value added by their experience with that teacher.
Agreed - gauging teacher quality is difficult/impossible. We should definitely prefer differential or incremental comparisons. But (it seems to me) other teachers can quickly identify bad teachers. I wonder if one could leverage that somehow, maybe some sort of peer evaluation system...
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:03 AM
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Many people who go to school to become engineers don't actually end up doing pure engineering work, my dad for example was a process engineer but now is a US patent Agent. Especially if you want to work at a start-up or even in today's job market. I can guarantee you that any engineering company will take an engineer that has good communication skills (as well as meeting job requirements) over the most brilliant engineer in the world. Engineering is very collaborative and requires engineers to communicate effectively with both other engineers and non-engineers. Furthermore if you don't have the skills to sell your idea to your manager, it won't get implemented in most cases.

Don't let yourself lapse into the faulty "I'm an Engineer, I don't need English" mentality I see far too often with students and classmates.

I could go on and on about stories my dad and numerous guest speakers (usually VP of Engineering at various companies) have told me about how important communication is to being a successful engineer and competitive job applicant.
Okay, I think you guys aren't understanding me at all. I agree with you guys. An engineer who thinks he only needs engineering is gonna be a crappy engineer. But state standardized tests don't encourage that kind of thinking. They cater to the lowest possible standard.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:11 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Okay, I think you guys aren't understanding me at all. I agree with you guys. An engineer who thinks he only needs engineering is gonna be a crappy engineer. But state standardized tests don't encourage that kind of thinking. They cater to the lowest possible standard.
Those tests are not really targeted towards you or your AP/GT-ish teachers. Like my kids (both EEs now) you could probably sleep through TAKS and passed easily. The AP classes teach to the AP test and students in the GT classes can handle the TAKS w/o preparation. Plus AP and GT teachers are normally the cream of the crop, as are SPED and K-3 teachers. In the middle there are a lot of students under-served by a system w/o sensible quality controls.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:17 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Okay, I think you guys aren't understanding me at all. I agree with you guys. An engineer who thinks he only needs engineering is gonna be a crappy engineer. But state standardized tests don't encourage that kind of thinking. They cater to the lowest possible standard.
Glad to hear that. Just wanted to make sure, you would be surprised how many people I have met who think like that, even in my engineering design/drafting classes I had people complaining about having to learn how to free hand sketch with perspective.

I agree about standardized tests however, having personal experience with charter schools, home school organizations, "regular schools", and middle college high school I would say that about the only thing that is the same among all of them is standardized tests. It may be far from perfect but its the best tool at gauging what material is being taught across such large variation of instruction and school type. Quite literally it standardizes the school systems so that judgement can be made about the classes. Just think about it could you imagine having to deal with a different standard for every school as a person from college admissions. It would be insane, you would need work samples from all applicants and so on. It is necessary, however like all things that are "one-size-fits-all" it is adequate for all but perfect for no one.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 02:12 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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What percentage of a students education do you believe should be spent learning hands on skills in High School? What would you cut? I see a lot of attacking of standardized tests, but why would schools put such an emphasis on "Standardized tests" if there wasn't some value for someone in those?

I would love to see more hands on experience, but I would caution folks to be careful about what you might take the place of.
Once upon a time a typical high school taught home economics and had a room full of Southbends and an auto shop, no? What got added when these classes were taken away? (Not a rhetorical question)
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Unread 06-13-2012, 07:34 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Once upon a time a typical high school taught home economics and had a room full of Southbends and an auto shop, no? What got added when these classes were taken away? (Not a rhetorical question)
At my school, the "vocational" classes got centralized between several schools. Students that were on a college prep course took course at the regular school. Students on the vocational track were required to take certain mandated courses during the morning (english, math, and history/government), but were then allowed to go to vocational in the afternoon. (Late 90s timeframe).

I have recently been in a handful of large schools that had auto & body shops at the schools that are all but closed down. Judging by the condition, I would say most of those closed around 2005-ish timeframe. Several FRC teams have taken over these spaces.

This is all anecdotal, but it would seem that the shop classes got the axe as more students moved to College Prep routes, and the funds got tighter.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 08:20 AM
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At the GT intermediate I attended (it also had regularly zoned kids, but we ignored them) the metal shop was removed after a liability lawsuit. All other intermediates followed suit. No such lawsuit has hit the high schools, so their shops are safe for the time being.
I remember my GT teachers telling me how upset they were that they had to teach to the TAKS test for three weeks each year. Didn't matter that we could pass it in our sleep; they'd be fired if they ignored the curriculum. So there's that. AP tests, more so than the SAT, have seemed like good tools to measure success because of the question content. There was a lovely article on engineering in space in my English 3 AP exam, and my World History AP exam required the sort of depth of thought you'd normally see from a really intense brainstorming session. But the article isn't taking that into account; its sole focus is state-mandated tests like STAR and TAKS. Which I think need to be replaced for those who measure a factor above the normal drivel.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 08:38 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

In a hypothetical situation, let's say I was in a state/district/school that forced me to dumb my teaching down to the lowest 25% in order to help the school get more students over a proficiency cut score for a standardized test. I would probably be tempted do one of the following: 1) ignore/break rules until I get fired, 2) move to another state/district/school, 3) quit and go back to engineering. The point: you can drive away teachers if you don't let them teach.

However, I've seen some of the test questions that Iowa is looking at using, and they tend to involve some pretty nice higher level thinking skills. If/when we end up somehow emphasizing those tests more, it is possible that it will actually force better teaching - it depends on how they do it. In my case, I've always been missing feedback from the tests we already do. All we get are the average scores in each subject. That's useless information to me as the teacher. We also are given no information about what's on the tests, because the test makers don't want teachers cheating. I would like to see that situation change. Once we have our set of high school course-specific tests up and running in Iowa, I hope we will have sample exams and concept maps up front to help us plan our teaching, and on the back end we need reports that show how students in our own classes did in each specific content area (not just the overall score). Then I can actually figure out how to change my teaching based on the test results. Otherwise, the entire exercise of testing is masturbatory.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 11:53 AM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Originally Posted by Ian Curtis View Post
Once upon a time a typical high school taught home economics and had a room full of Southbends and an auto shop, no? What got added when these classes were taken away? (Not a rhetorical question)
Good question. I can't provide a universal answer (if one exists), but in my high school I think it coincided at least roughly with an increase in computers & tech: mechanical CAD, architectural CAD, biotech, manufacturing, power & energy, transport, video apps, graphic arts & photography. I believe it also coincided with a major expansion the lab science progression: multi-year & AP bio/chem/phys, plus more in-depth environmental/ecology courses. If my own experience is any indication, we also had a somewhat belated uptick in higher-level social science.

Like another poster, the district also has central a vocational-technical education school, as well as a new STEM magnet school.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:08 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Once upon a time a typical high school taught home economics and had a room full of Southbends and an auto shop, no? What got added when these classes were taken away? (Not a rhetorical question)
Remedial classes for those that failed TAKS
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Unread 06-13-2012, 12:21 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Remedial classes for those that failed TAKS
I was thinking of responding with something to the effect of "administration that lets academics (or standardized tests) get in the way of a good education". But remedial classes for those that for whatever reason fail standardized tests is a good enough answer...


Actually, I was remembering that in my college, all the sophomores had to sit for a standardized test. Just once, mind you, but as I understand it it was just about a waste of time there because just about everyone in that group could pass it in their sleep. I don't know about the other colleges in the system, though...I also don't know what they could do to you if you didn't pass, though there were remedial courses available--at the time of taking the test, many students were expected to be in Calc 2 or even higher, and the test barely touched Calc 1.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 04:13 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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At my school, the "vocational" classes got centralized between several schools. Students that were on a college prep course took course at the regular school. Students on the vocational track were required to take certain mandated courses during the morning (english, math, and history/government), but were then allowed to go to vocational in the afternoon. (Late 90s timeframe).

I have recently been in a handful of large schools that had auto & body shops at the schools that are all but closed down. Judging by the condition, I would say most of those closed around 2005-ish timeframe. Several FRC teams have taken over these spaces.

This is all anecdotal, but it would seem that the shop classes got the axe as more students moved to College Prep routes, and the funds got tighter.
Interesting. Before I jumped ship to a magnet school my local high school had what was once clearly shop space but had since been converted to an art classroom. When my dad was in high school (early 80s) it had still been shop space. We too had a local vocational school, but they scheduled all of the vocational classes during the honors classes so it was impossible to do both. :rollseyes: We did still have middle school woodshop though. That was pretty cool. I'll never forget a bunch of kids didn't want to do one of the projects and Mr. Weatherbee said "Okay by me, but don't come complaining when you fail." -- they did the project. The voc school principal for most of my high school team's existence was really supportive as he thought FIRST was a great way to get honors kids into the voc school since he couldn't get them into regularly scheduled classes. Unfortunately his successor didn't feel the same way.

Maine actually uses the SAT test as their high school standardized testing. We also had to take a science supplement which was a joke. Over 80% of my high school class got a perfect score. I'm not sure AP tests are really a great standardized test either. I got a 5 on AP Calc BC and would not be surprised if I got more than 90% of the test right. I also got a 5 on AP Chemistry and would be very surprised if I got 50% of test correct.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 04:32 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Maine actually uses the SAT test as their high school standardized testing. We also had to take a science supplement which was a joke. Over 80% of my high school class got a perfect score. I'm not sure AP tests are really a great standardized test either. I got a 5 on AP Calc BC and would not be surprised if I got more than 90% of the test right. I also got a 5 on AP Chemistry and would be very surprised if I got 50% of test correct.
I feel like this is one of the big misunderstandings with these types of tests (sorry, I don't meant to pick on you). It's not ~95% = A = 5, ~85% = B = 4. Yes, A =~ 5 and B =~ 4, but the percentages are (in the case of APs) based on the grades of students in college comparability studies. Depending on the test, your composite score could be 66% and still get a 5.

This is not to say that the scoring setting is necessarily done correctly in all standardized tests.
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Unread 06-13-2012, 04:52 PM
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Re: Learning by Making Rockets & Robots

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Many people who go to school to become engineers don't actually end up doing pure engineering work, my dad for example was a process engineer but now is a US patent Agent. Especially if you want to work at a start-up or even in today's job market. I can guarantee you that any engineering company will take an engineer that has good communication skills (as well as meeting job requirements) over the most brilliant engineer in the world. Engineering is very collaborative and requires engineers to communicate effectively with both other engineers and non-engineers. Furthermore if you don't have the skills to sell your idea to your manager, it won't get implemented in most cases.

Don't let yourself lapse into the faulty "I'm an Engineer, I don't need English" mentality I see far too often with students and classmates.

I could go on and on about stories my dad and numerous guest speakers (usually VP of Engineering at various companies) have told me about how important communication is to being a successful engineer and competitive job applicant.
To expand on this a bit, I always tell my students about how the company I work for hires. We're a fairly large medical device company... but we contrary to popular assumption, we don't hire a lot of biomedical engineers. It's easier to hire a good mechanical, electrical, or computer engineer and teach him/her the biology they need for the job, than it is to teach a biomedical engineer the in-depth knowledge of a particular engineering discipline they need.

I went to school for Computer Engineering/Computer Science, and kept myself fairly well rounded. My interview process for an internship here years ago went like this: They came on campus to do interviews. I talked with one guy for about half an hour. He asked me to come back to talk with another guy, who then interrupted another interview so a third guy could talk to me as well. They had hundreds of interviews at my school that week, all with engineering students with grades just as good as mine. As an interviewer, seeing "yet another" resume with a 3.8+ GPA doesn't mean much. Making a connection with a student that can communicate well and tell his/her story in a compelling way does. Then I got hired here and spent 1/4 of my time the first year in a classroom learning about the human heart and cardiovascular system. I don't need the in depth information a doctor does... we have doctors consulting with us for that. Rather, I need to know "just enough" to understand what they're saying and translate it into design requirements.

Being a good engineer isn't all about engineering. It's about being able to use engineering for a practical application, and to successfully communicate your research or development results to people who aren't engineers (aka management, marketing, sales, etc).
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