Archive for September 9, 2009

Matthias Felleisen in Response to Blog Post

Matthias Felleisen tried to respond to the blog post where I commented on his and Shriram Krishnamurthi’s recent CACM article, but WordPress kept discarding his text!  I offered to post it here as a new entry.

Dear Mark: thanks for the thorough response to our CACM article.

You are correct in that we have not published any quantitative or
qualitative studies concerning the outcomes of TeachScheme! or
Bootstrap courses—even though we have the data, collected by external and independent evaluators. There are several reasons for our decision,
though two are particularly important. First, publications about such studies
tend to leave me disappointed. Some confirm the obvious, others use
highly questionable methods, and few (if any) results live up to
reproducibility, the most important criteria of experimentation. Second, my own experience as a CS researcher with a highly unusual outreach project (15 years running now) suggests that such studies convince few people (if any). Instead, when people find out about our studies (and their  positive results), they come up with reasons for why such positive results could not possibly be obtained at their institution. As for the specific concerns about Bootstrap—the school level curriculum for   synthesizing mathematics and programming/computing—the evaluation is out of my hands, and I expect that you will actually see highly detailed (and positive) results in a couple of years from now.

You are also correct that the “whole package has to look and feel like mathematics.” We completely support this goal, and my very first NSF proposal in 1995 outlined a strategy for getting just there,   including an especially developed programming language (dubbed Jam), the IDE (more than Boxer and more than DrScheme), an alignment of the curriculum with the NCTS standards, and more. While the response was highly positive in general, the reviews didn’t accept the idea that purely functional programming is mathematics and that a lot of (school) mathematics is  functional programming; the program  officer re-directed us into computer  science and Teach Scheme Not (aka !) was born.

So, if you really agree with our goals, and if you really think it is a good route to go, come work with us. We need help.

Matthias Felleisen

September 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm 5 comments

NYTimes: U.S. Colleges Are Failing in Getting Students to Graduate

A really interesting article in today’s New York Times addresses an issue that we’ve been discussing in this blog recently: What is the responsibility of getting students to graduate? Economic Scene – U.S. Colleges Are Failing in Getting Students to Graduate – NYTimes.com talks about a new book that uses new data to analyze graduation rates across the United States.  A blog post at the NYTimes provides access to some of the original data.  The article points out that underprepared high school students are an issue, but not the most critical one.  A bigger issue is too much focus on enrollment and too little on finishing.

September 9, 2009 at 10:56 am 3 comments


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