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Teach For America Corps Member and Math Teacher writing on Philosophy and Policy and Science and Economics and Other Things.


Why Keeping Teachers in Schools for the Long-term is so Important

No matter what, education is centrally about improving student outcomes. We do a lot to try and maximize that, but many of our policies end up having unintended negative consequences. In particular, many of our school improvement policies can make teacher lives so miserable that it can often be difficult to retain teachers. In Nashville […]

My Concerns about Effective Altruism

In 2015 I co-founded a nonprofit to combat food insecurity. Since then we’ve grown into a full 501c 3, we’ve fed a lot of food insecure people within our community, and we’ve figured out ways to sustainably build food pharmacies and food cooperatives. We have supported the health of thousands of members and we’ve saved […]

15 ways to make College Charities more Effective

There are tens-of-thousands of college nonprofits and charities. At my alma mater, Ohio State, we had more than 500 nonprofit student organizations active during any year alone. Some are built as resume builders for the founders, but some are also serious operations with massive organizational structures and huge philanthropic bases. Ohio State’s yearly dance marathon […]

Trade Education is the Future

College seems broken. Huge sections of students never graduate, and most students end up being burdened by massive student debt. As the flood of recent graduates have entered the job market, we’ve created tremendous credential inflation that pushes up the educational requirements for jobs regardless of the actual required skills for the job. Year-after-year college […]

Why Online Education Hasn’t Won

The short answers are culture and choice There was a period in the 2000’s when we thought that Khan Academy was going to save education. To anyone without teaching experience it makes a lot of sense. Khan Academy provided better and more concise explanations of math and science problems than most teachers could, and it provided […]

Coronavirus K12 Education Policy

Most major US universities have closed and moved to online classes for the remainder of the semester. K12 education has moved slower. Many districts have decided to close until at least the first week of April, but there are some districts that have not made the decision yet. Very few districts have closed for the […]

Coronavirus Homeschooling Tips and Resources from a Teacher

Most school districts in the US are closed for the next month. If predictions are right, the seasonality of Coronavirus makes it likely that schools will be closed for many more months over the course of the next year. As a high school math teacher I am already preparing resources for my students to review […]

Nashville Tornado Disaster Capitalism

I moved to Nashville Last Summer. The first house I saw was a small two bedroom by a few popular East Nashville restaurants. The realtor who took us through was an old Nashvillian who did not live in East Nashville, but he had been making money off of East Nashville Realty for the last couple […]

Misconceptions about Education Spending

(Part 1 in my longer post on conventional wisdom in education) Spending is the guiding principle for how most people make sense of education policy. We have very high expectations for what our public schools need to offer and, on top of that, we frequently assume that reform means more spending. This spiral has led […]

Misconceptions about Teacher Pay and Supply

(Part 2 in my recent post on conventional wisdom in education) As a teacher, I feel weird writing about this. I don’t think I’ve ever met a teacher who felt that they are paid enough, this is all despite the fact that we get at least 12 weeks of paid vacation alongside the best benefits […]

It’s difficult to improve teacher quality and PD doesn’t help

(Part of my recent post on the conventional wisdom of education) Another common hope for improving student outcomes is to improve teacher quality through rigorous systems of evaluation and professional development. In the school that I work for, I am constantly being observed, evaluated, and then pushed to improve my teaching through many hours of […]

Misconceptions about Charter Schools

Charter schools are not bad for traditional public schools One common complaint about Charter Schools is that they hurt the local Traditional Public Schools. This makes a lot of sense because it looks like it is stealing money directly from the schools by decreasing student enrollment. To be fair, Charter Schools are a big and […]

Why Conventional Wisdom on Education Reform is Wrong (a primer)

As a teacher I’m told a lot of stories about how education works and how we are going to fix it. We tell the stories because they give us easy-to-understand enemies along with optimistic explanations of our problems. But these stories are not often based in evidence. And when they aren’t clearly wrong, they are […]

The Limits of Public Education — Lessons from the Indian Schools

There’s a tradition in progressive public education that sees itself as a way to counteract the home lives of students. This is a well-intentioned progressivism that we still often see, and there’s good reason for this. We know that in-school factors are only able to account for about 30% of a student’s academic outcomes. When you see […]

Ban Climbing Chalk

Climbing chalk is used to improve your ability to hold on to the rock. There’s a lot of variation in use. Personally, I don’t use it much but I know a lot of climbers who obsessively coat their entire hands in chalk before going on any route. I hadn’t really thought much about chalk until […]

Education Alone Can’t Save Us

A polite liberal response to policy frustration is to just say “well we just need more education.” Are we frustrated about Trump’s election? Well we must need more education to fix those Trump voters. What about the connected epidemics of obesity, suicide, and teen pregnancy? Well if we just had good gym class and better counselors […]

A Masters Doesn’t Make You a Better Teacher

I am in a masters program for education right now. I am doing it because it’s the only way that I can get my teaching license. It costs quite a bit and I can only afford it on a first-year teacher’s salary because of the Americorps grant that (that’s somehow still taxable) I’m given as […]

60/40 Beliefs

This is an idea that I frequently talk about to students and colleagues that I stole from Tyler Cowen who may have stole it from someone else. It goes along with a lot of how I’ve been thinking about improving rationality through culture rather than education. In other words, it’s very difficult to increase a student’s raw ability to […]

How much testing is too much testing?

We have built our entire education system on standardized testing. It would seem like we should have a lot of the details for testing figured out. However (and without going into too much of the messy details) there’s a lot we just don’t quite understand. in particular I can’t find any research beyond basic surveys that […]

Give up on Textbooks

For me the beginning of every semester in college went the same way. I would get a list of textbooks from my syllabi. I’d spend hundreds of dollars chasing after used versions of the books, and then, for the most part, I’d barely use the books. Sometimes that was just due to my laziness, but […]

Teaching as a Driver for Personal Growth

Despite being paid below both the average salary of college graduates and below the median income of most major cities, we like to talk about teaching as a noble and high-status profession. In some ways it is, and in some ways it’s not. I think, collectively, we would prefer that our teachers commit to the […]

In Praise of Bad Handwriting (?)

Some research has shown that fonts that are harder to read can lead to better retention of the information. The linked study gave subjects a set amount of time to read a passage and memorize the information in the passage. Subjects who read “ in an easy-to-read font (16-point Arial pure black) answered correctly 72.8 percent […]

The Debate Over Public Charter Schools

Compulsory public education has not been a norm for all of the US until after WW1. Since then it has seen significant shifts in school culture as well as significant shifts in system performance. At one time the US led the world in math and science education, but now it consistently ranks poorly in student […]

A Defense of Teach For America

When I joined TFA I was told that I would get a lot of criticism from traditional teachers. I’m part of the Nashville Corps and the city has little union activity and a lot of support for charter networks. In addition to that, most of the state and district leadership comes from TFA. So, I […]

Why Is University Teaching So Awful?

In college I had two types of classes: (1) 10–50 person lectures without slides and some student discussion, and (2) large lectures where a professor read directly from their computer. I did get a few recitations here and there, but the majority of them were run by graduate students who didn’t know how to teach and didn’t seem to want to be […]

We Need Research on Lab Productivity and Management

In the last 7 years I’ve worked in 3 different labs. One in lichenology and botany. One in Alzheimer’s research. And one in Computational Neuroscience. I learned a lot in each lab. I made a lot of mistakes and was fortunate to work under some genius principal investigators who let me explore their fields. I’m […]

Being Graded on My Student’s Test Scores or Over-optimizing for Education Data

Education is obsessed with data. It determines what success looks like for schools, administrators, teachers, and students. The metrics of interest, however, change constantly, and when one or two metrics have an outsized influence on funding and employment, it can lead all those involved to over-optimize the school and classroom to maximize these metrics at […]

Would Universal Healthcare improve health?

Healthcare policy should be most interested in improving the health of the country. We aren’t looking to just spend as much as we can on healthcare. We are looking to make sure our system serves as many citizens as possible. We want a system that meets all of our health needs and makes it easier […]

Real Restorative Justice in Schools

Restorative justice has become a major trend in public schools. It’s mostly used as a buzzword that has little relation to its practice in actual legal systems, but, for the most part, it’s colloquially used by teachers and administrators as a behavioral system that replaces punishments like detention and suspension for “restorative conversations” and conferences where […]

Nudges for getting students to do their homework

This is always a big problem for most teachers. We need our students to think through extra problems so that they better understand the content, but it is incredibly difficult to get students to do even a few problems. Here are a few tips I’ve found that work. Make the problem font size small enough […]

End School Grade Levels

Age-based grade levels are so ubiquitous in US education that it can be difficult to imagine what a school would be like without them. We just assume that students are going to go through roughly 14 grades (pre school, kindergarten, then 1–12) with the same students in each level. This will come with some variation […]

Are Student Evaluations useful?

My current growth as a teacher is partly measured by quarterly student evaluations that ask students to assess my ability as a consistent, respectful, and capable teacher. When I gave my students the links to the surveys, I had at least four students who (semi?) jokingly told each other that they would “tear me apart” […]

Rethinking Psychiatric Drugs

I’d like to propose a way to classify different types of psychiatric drugs. There’s a chance that this classification already exists but if it doesn’t it is at least helpful for me conceptually→Draw a line between drugs that operate by continually affecting existing endogenous systems in the brain and drugs that operate by forcefully “rewiring” […]

Hunting more ethical than Veganism?

Pretend you’re an “ethical” hunter. You are a skilled marksman and you can ensure that when you shoot a deer it will instantly die. And on top of that, you are also very good at tracking and identifying the oldest bucks that are no longer fertile and likely to face gruesome, horrible deaths from younger […]

More Ethical to Eat Less Poultry and More Pork?

“Figuring out how to make your diet responsive to the true suffering of the animals you consume.” My diet is a huge hole in my moral life. I eat beef, eggs, kale, rice, carrots, peanut butter, bananas, and sourdough bread. I chase affordability and simplicity and, for the most part, I avoid fully examining the […]

Improving Rationality through Culture rather than Education

Last summer I got the opportunity to work with a Philosophy and Critical Thinking Summer Camp put on by Ohio State’s Philosophy department. My role was to figure out ways to evaluate whether the summer camp made any measurable improvements on the student’s ability to “critically think.” It was a great opportunity but a complicated […]

Theories of Social Change

“Making sense of norms vs laws” I throw around the word “norm” a lot. It sounds a little pretentious. I know. However, I think it’s an important concept to understand for anyone interested in social science or politics. Most easily, a norm is a type of rule that governs appropriate behavior in some particular setting. […]

Iuka

Home for me is the tunnel of trees that leads me back to my house in the woodsIt’s one of the only quiet areas in the areaA last mix of students and families and professorsA last enclave that hasn’t totally given up to the encroaching off-campusA young community of crushed beer cans, trashed porches, loud […]

Cuyahoga

I am absorbed in my day-to-dayI have to remind myself how old I am and where I’ve beenIts too easy to forget childhood and forget change and growthPretend like I dropped out of the air and just landed here at 23 No I was a child and parts will come back to me in momentsI […]

Paradoxes of Increasing Teacher Pay

According to the OECD, the average American teacher has a starting salary of $39,000 a year. When compared to many other countries US teachers are paid pretty well, but within the US itself, where the average college graduate has a starting salary of around $50,000, teachers make significantly less than many comparable careers given the amount of […]

Why Depression isn’t about Dopamine and Serotonin

“Psychiatric Disorders as Brain States” When you go to a psychiatrist they don’t take scan your brain and they don’t monitor biological markers to diagnose you. They go through a checklist of questions about your behavior. Even though patients and doctors only interact with mental disorders through behavior, many people describe their own mental health […]