There has been much wringing of hands over the “Achievement Gap,” which is “observed disparity on a number of educational measures between the performance of groups of students, especially groups defined by gender, race/ethnicity, ability, and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap can be observed on a variety of measures, including standardized test scores, grade point average, dropout rates, and college-enrollment and -completion rates.” [Emphasis mine]. One of the specific goals of NCLB was to measure and close this gap once and for all — a noble goal, even if the methods are questionable.

Now, I am far from the first person to point out that homework can make the gap worse, but let me give you some concrete examples.

Imagine a high school student. He arrives home, and his Mom is waiting for him thanks to a flexible work schedule. He gets a snack — teenage boys are universally always hungry — and sits down to work on homework for several classes. At one point he needs help with his foreign language work; Mom studied that language and certainly knows enough to help him through grammar and vocabulary. Later he uses internet resources to find a news article for another class. At one point he is stumped by a science problem. While Mom doesn’t know the answer, she suggests that it’s a topic that doesn’t change a lot and might be in Dad’s college biology book. When Dad arrives home shortly, he is able to help the student with mnemonics, or clever ways to remember all that information. Later, Mom cooks a healthy dinner, and later still everybody goes to bed at a reasonable hour.

Now let’s look at all the obstacles he did not have:

  • He didn’t worry about getting home from school safely, nor about his safety in his upper-middle class neighborhood
  • There was plenty of nutritious food in the house
  • He did not have to supervise the homework of younger siblings
  • He was not responsible for housework, such as starting dinner before Mom and Dad got home
  • Someone was there to keep him focused on the task at hand when necessary
  • He did not need to be at an after school job to help the family finances
  • He had all the resources to do homework, such as pencils, paper and reference materials
  • His parents were college educated and could in fact help when he had trouble with homework
  • His parents could afford tutoring services if they were necessary
  • He had access to a computer and high-speed internet
  • His parents were both willing and able to see to it that his physical and academic needs were taken care of.

It’s clear to see why homework is sometimes just one more academic obstacle.

In Closing: on the economy; on being ripped off; on Medicaid; on honesty and civility and history; on the free market; on climate change; lost wages; and oops.

Rosencrantz and Shorties Are Undead

Volcanoes!: Ok, the Eyjnafjallajökull eruption was bad, but usually when it goes the far more dangerous Katla volcano goes as well. Icelandic volcanic eruptions are blamed for temporary climate change that resulted in the Mississippi river freezing as far south as New Orleans and causing famines that eventually resulted in the French Revolution. Here’s 5 more great volcanic eruptions.

Real banking reform, now!: Mr. Reich presents what I consider to be a minimum regulatory laundry list. In the meantime, here’s some things you can do to figure out who really owns your mortgage. Oh, and if you are having trouble with your mortgage (or are in bankruptcy), pay extra close attention to this. Crap like that would not happen if it weren’t for “deregulation.” If you are a little lost figuring out the Goldmann Sachs story, here’s a nice analysis. Don’t forget that there’s a criminal investigation into what happened at Countrywide. Could it bring down Bank of America? We can only hope.

The recession is over? Like hell: The economy is very far from normal (and in my opinion will stay that way until the fundamental banking issues and certain insurance issues are solved).

Oh yeah, it’s 4/20: Did you know that a majority of Americans in the West support legalizing (and regulating) marijuana?

Stupid School Administrator Tricks: The story of a school district in Pennsylvania secretly using webcams in school issued notebook computers to spy on children gets deeper and weirder. They now admit to having some 56,000 pictures (and those are just the keepers and the ones they admit to having). Yet somehow, even though they have pictures of sleeping students, they miraculously don’t have any nudies? Yeah, I’m with Amanda on this one: suuuuure they don’t.

On the other hand: The Supreme Court isn’t amused by a SWAT officer who was reprimanded for texting his wife and girlfriend — both!? — on a police issued phone. Justice Stevens asked “Wouldn’t you just assume that the whole universe of conversations by SWAT officers who were on duty 24/7 might well have to be reviewed by some member of the public or some supervisor?”

Stupid Tax Tricks: Teabaggers who don’t know what they are talking about, and the myth that somehow corporations will pass on the cost of taxes on profits to customers.

Stupid Legislator Tricks: Apparently they are using some “new math” on Capitol Hill, as Senator Coburn is going on record as saying more money is “wasted” on Medicaid than is actually spent on it. Can’t he just admit he hates poor people and thinks any money spent on them is a waste? Either that or sign him up for Kumon.

Chemo sucks: but it is better than dying of cancer.

Almost makes me want to take up guitar: light-up guitar picks!

A cool cookbook, I hope: The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. Mine is on pre-order. So far all the recipes shared on Mark Sisson’s blog have been winners.

I will have more to say about this soon: Local interest lawsuit with nationwide ramifications.

Building a castleIn the Ozarks. Now. It’s a pretty cool project!

Star Wars Japan Filter: Did you know that Mark Hamill went to High School in Japan? He’s working on a new movie project, by the way. And just to wrap things up, here’s an artist’s impression of what Star Wars characters would look like as done by Akira Kurasawa.