Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Back from two very difficult and sad weeks, only to find this run-down of the worst books ever waiting to cheer me up with some much-needed snideness.

To that list, I'd also like to add anything at all by Nicholas Sparks, Maeve Binchy, or Dave 'It' Pelzer.

Monday, May 12, 2003
About 25 years ago, many US public schools began offering higher-value grades for advanced-level courses. What this meant is that for an 'A' grade in an advanced course, a student could earn 5.0 points instead of the normal 4.0. This was meant to encourage students to sign up for the advanced courses, since effectively, earning a 'B' in one would be the equivalent of making an 'A' in a regular-level course (both earn 4.0 points). The bottom line is that students can take more difficult courses and not alienate universities that evaluate grade point averages (GPAs) as part of their admissions decisions.

Politicians have criticised this policy, as have students, teachers, and researchers. It creates some confusion in comparing students who come from schools that offer advanced courses with those who come from schools that don't. It also inflates expectations of GPAs at schools with advanced courses. But one of the biggest problems has been that this system comes with an implicit tracking that streams college-bound students into courses that offer the advantage of extra points. These courses are usually designated by the school or school system, and almost never include vocational courses (even very high-level technology vocational courses such as circuitry) or any physical education courses (the exceptions to this tend to be Olympic-level training at specialised schools and some high-level dance courses).

This policy also has the effect of handicapping students who must take standard-level physical education courses (i.e. almost every student) and students who take vocational education courses.

A new case being brought against a New Jersey school system highlights the vagaries of the differential point-value system in a bizarre scenario involving 3 co-valedictorians, an immune-deficient student, and those pesky gym classes.

Friday, May 09, 2003
Something that's been bothering me recently is this: we'll soon hit the point of no return with this whole ridiculous freedom fries versus french fries business, where there will be a significant group of people who don't remember what french fries are. It's the point when the usage becomes immutable fact. My feeling is that that point is pretty close here in the US. Such a shame.

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