Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time to Vote!

Again, here are the much coveted Helpy-Chalk endorsements. This election we are also pushing early voting. By voting now you can save the Dems much needed money on turning out other voters later.

Also, this esteemed blog is recommending for information on the down-ticket judicial races no one ever seems to know about.

And now the endorsements: For every state and national level office & the county council race: The Democrat.

For Cuyahoga County Executive: Tim McCormack. He's a longtime Dem running as an independent because of the corruption of the local party. He sounded very good in his WCPN interview.

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court: Eric Brown (over Maureen O'Conner). This is a race between two sitting judges to see who will be chief justice. The court itself is an embarrassment, that frequently rules in favor of large corporate donors to the campaigns of the judges. The very fact that judges are allowed to rule on cases involving donors is a disgrace that has been featured in the New York Times.

For a long time before Brown was appointed, the court has been all Republican. Brown was appointed by Strickland after the former Chief justice died. He has been endorsed by the Plain Dealer and Call and Post and gets higher ratings from the local bar associations. I'm just hoping that as an outsider to the court appointed by a Democrat, he is more likely to push against the corruption.

Justice of the Supreme Court: Mary Jane Trapp (over Judith Lanzinger) See above for the background. Lanzinger is the incumbent in this bad system. Trap gets better ratings from the bar associations and has the recommendation of the Call and Post. The PD went with Lanzinger, but I distrust their endorsements.

8th district court of appeals: Kathleen Ann Keough and Eileen Gallagher, based on judge4yourself rating.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas Lance Timothy Mason (over Baker), on judge4yourself ratings

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas Dick Ambrose (over Hall), This is one of those places where the judge4yourself ratings are very helpful. Ambrose's opponent received a "not recommended" from all four local bar associations, a sign of serious incompetence or corruption.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas McClelland (over Clancy). McClelland has all excellent ratings from the local bars, but the newspapers went with Clancy. I decided to trust the bars, on the grounds that at this level simple legal competence is more important than political connections. Also, the bar associations listed include the associations for women, African Americans, and defense lawyers, so I feel the less powerful are represented.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas Michael Astrab. His opponent, Bridget McCafferty has been indicted in the corruption arrests that have swept the county but still might when the election because women with Irish last names do well around here.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas Rosemary Grdina Gold (over Marshall). Marshall's ratings are so bad it is natural to suspect incompetence or corruption.

Issue 1: Money for the public schools: YES. Always vote for the schools.

Issue 2: Allow attached housing in some business districts Yes. Sounds like it would be good for walkability.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Should people give final exams?

The Boston Globe has a piece up about the declining use of final exams, and In Socrates' Wake responds with more general thoughts about frequent, low-stakes testing vs. infrequent high-stakes testing, as a part of their ongoing discussion of the issue. I have long been on the frequent, low-stakes side, which mostly means I spend a lot of time shuffling paper. ISW comes down in favor of retaining some role for the final exam, but everything I'm seeing here reinforces the idea that frequent low-stakes testing is the way to go.

The Globe article was prompted by a change in Harvard's policy about scheduling finals. Rather than assuming that every class will have a final, and them booking a room for it which may go unused, Harvard now requires instructors to request a room for a final. This decision in tern was prompted by the discovery that only 23% of the classes at Harvard actually have finals. (This, by the way, is a change that LCCC might want to consider as well. Our inefficient room scheduling has been cited by outside consultants as a place where we might save money, and our finals scheduling has often been a mess, with rooms double booked.)

I know there is research out there backing the frequent, low-stakes side, but I've never really delved into it. The Globe article one cites on empirical study, by M. Vali Siadat, which showed that algebra students who were given small weekly quizzes did better overall, and on the final exams, than those who were given less rigorous weekly assignments. (This makes me feel good about the structure of my logic class.) This is the original study. A commenter at ISW also mentions the spacing effect, which shows that periodic reinforcement over a long period of time leads to better memory than short cramming sessions. This, by the way, has been known since 1885.

Michael Cholbi at ISW suggests that the frequent low-stakes vs. infrequent high-stakes may a be a false dichotomy. Indeed, the Siadat study seems to have really been about two different versions of the mixed approach, with the winning strategy leaning more to the frequent low-stakes side. My logic class follows roughly that structure, with 10 short quizzes (down from 15 in a 15 week course.) In place of a final, you are allowed to re-take 3 of your quizzes. I think this definitely works for math-like subjects. The issue is more complicated for the humanities.