Saturday, February 2, 2008

Six Nations Championship (RBS 6 Nations) Rugby

In my younger days I spent four years Down Under, in Australia. And among the many things I saw and did, I learned that rugby can be enjoyable and entertaining - even for an American like me.

On the northern half of globe the premier international tournament for rugby union is the Six Nations Championship (RBS 6 Nations). The six nations in the tournament are England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland, and Wales. The five week series started today. As I write, Ireland has beaten Italy, England and Wales are in progress, and Scotland and France play later today...

The championship series has an excellent website that covers the rugby games, along with a great deal more. They provide a broad list of offerings - including tournament news and results, interactive games, and podcasts for six nations fans. You can see videos - match highlights of the latest games.

The site is published in three langauges: English, French, and Italian.

If you are a rugby fan, you should check their site. the have a great online store. you can browse the online version of thier official magazine. You'll find team stats and player stats dating back to the early 1990's, along with much more. I think you'll be impressed with the offerings.

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was financially compensated for this post...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Future of IQ Testing in Identifying Learning Disabilities

Note: Visit my education blog, The Green Cup.

The usefulness of IQ testing for identifying learning disabilities is hotly debated. And with changes in the law, issues like cost and ethics are also being discussed.

When reading specialists meet with small groups of students under the new Response to Intervention model, they collect information about how the student responds to instructional strategies and approaches aimed at helping those students "get" what they're having problems with in their regular class. Later, if and when a child's academic problems become serious enough that the child is suspected of having a learning disability, a team of professionals looks at the notes and reports the reading specialist made during those small group times.

Is that it? Is that all there is now to deciding whether a child has a learning disability?

James B Hale, Ph.D. thinks that it is pretty obvious from the new regulations on IDEA 2004 that something beyond just data from the different interventions that get tried with a child will be required.

"So, if you adopt an RTI-only perspective, what multiple measures will be used? How will practitioners assess all areas of suspected disability, including language (i.e., "communicative), motor, cognitive, and intellectual function? ...Maybe I'm wrong, but I think if people are making classification decisions solely on the basis of RTI data, they are now OUT OF COMPLIANCE with the law. RTI data can be *part* of a comprehensive evaluation (as it should be), but it is NOT a SUBSTITUTE for a comprehensive evaluation," Hale said as part of a discussion of the issue on a National Association of School Psychologists listserv.

Dr. Hale is a certified school psychologist and special education teacher who now teaches as part of the graduate program in school psychology at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The preamble to the new regulations clears up some of the discussion: "The Department (of Education) does not believe that an assessment of psychological or cognitive processing should be required in determining whether a child has an SLD. There is no current evidence that such assessments are necessary or sufficient for identifying SLD...In many cases, though, assessments of cognitive processes simply add to the testing burden and do not contribute to interventions." (p 649). With some 1244 pages of preamble to be waded through, there's probably a lot left to be discovered in the new regs.

In email communication, Guy M. McBride, Ph.D., pointed out that there is a major difference between saying, on the one hand, that we must still perform IQ tests on kids suspected of having a learning disability because the law still (the argument goes) requires it and, on the other hand, saying that we should be performing those tests because they provide us with important information. If the IQ test is no longer a hard and fast requirement, school systems could save money by not testing for IQ - maybe a lot of money when you consider that tests for one child can cost as much as $8,000.

"Depending on the criteria adopted by their states ...public agencies could realize savings under the final regulations by reducing the amount of a school psychologist's time involved in conducting cognitive assessments that would have been needed to document an IQ discrepancy," said McBride. McBride is a school psychologist in North Carolina with over three decades of experience.

Can we use IQ tests to help decide whether a child has a learning disability? If the team evaluating the child thinks that would be useful, certainly. Do we have to use IQ tests anymore? It seems pretty clear from the preamble of the regs that IQ testing is not a legal requirement under IDEA 2004. But §300.304 (Evaluation procedures) of the regs says that "(c)Each public agency must ensure that-- (6) In evaluating each child with a disability under §§300.304 through 300.306, the evaluation is sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child's special education and related services needs..."

For school administrators the question becomes one of what it means to be "sufficiently comprehensive" without actually administering the WISC-III (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children) or some similar test. And some on the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) listserv are arguing that the issue is not just legal, but ethical - that it is perhaps impossible to be "sufficiently comprehensive" without a test like the WISC-III, or that it is a disservice to the child being evaluated to not perform such a test.

It will probably be at least a few months before most states announce how they will define "specific learning disability" in light of the new regs - an what role IQ testing will play in the definition...

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lunches this Week...

This week's lunches...

Monday - Leftovers: fried potatoes, green beans and boneless pork chops.

Tuesday - Italian Sausage (made w/Turkey Meat) and sourdough breads.

Wednesday - A slice of pork roast left over from New Year's Day (frozen), with black-eyed peas and fried potatoes. The pork was glazed with an orange sauce that included nutmeg and orange peel.

Thursday (Today) - Leftover casserole made of elbow macaroni, taco meat, refried beans, and cheese.

Tomorrow (Friday) - A paste dish. Mix of tortellini and ravioli in a white sauce with shrimp and oysters.

That's the week...

Create Your Own Online Survey with Easy-Poll

Polls are a good way to add a little life to your web site. And one of the better providers for online surveys is Easy-Poll.

An online poll does a couple of things for your web site. First, it interests people. Everyone enjoys expressing their opinion and trying to influence the opinions of other people. But the other thing that an online survey does is it brings visitors back to your web site - usually several times. They voted in the poll or survey, now they want to know how the results turned out...

Easy-Poll is an easy and effective way to survey your friends and neighbors, classmates or family. The system is designed so that you don't need your own database or software. Easy Poll handles everything.

And you can set up a survey in about two minutes. You can't ask for better than that. Add to that a guarantee of round-the-clock access to your account and, well, why would you go somewhere else?

The site is easy to use. All you have to do is write your questions, create the answers choices that your visitors will pick from, and Easy Poll will generate an HTML code to paste into your website. And it's free...

Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I was financially compensated for this post...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Army Asks a VA Office to Stop Helping Vets Fillout Disability Paperwork

National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story today on the Department of Veterans Affairs office in upstate New York that got a call from the US Army. Evidently the VA people there were being too helpful. The workers at the VA office were helping disabled soldiers at Fort Drum fill out their military disability paperwork. The VA workers there were good at it. So they got a call from the Army, asking them to stop helping Vets - at least with this paperwork.

You can listen to the NPR story here.

A quote from the NPR story:
One disabled soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he fears retaliation from the military, says it feels like a slap in the face.

"To be tossed aside like a worn-out pair of boots is pretty disheartening," the soldier says. "I always believed the Army would take care of me if I did the best I could, and I've done that."
The situation seems typical of Bush administration care for returning war veterans. Early last year conditions at Walter Reed Medical Center were so bad that Congress started an investigation, the general in charge of the facility resigned, and the head of the Veterans Administration eventually stepped down.

However you feel about the war itself, it's difficult not to be outraged over the Bush Administration's treatment of veterans...

Farewell to Edwards

I was disappointed today to hear that John Edwards had withdrawn from the race for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. I thought he was the best candidate. I've said recently here that I thought he was in a three way race that no one would win, and that as long as no one won, it didn't really matter who had the most delegates.

But Senator Edwards sees things differently, I suppose. And so for all realistic and practical purposes it is now down to a two candidate race. That means that in all likelihood, one of those two candidates will win outright before the Denver convention.

And I no longer really have a preference as to which of the two it is...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Also Ran: Rudy Giuliani

With 95% of the vote counted in the GOP Florida Primary, Rudy Giuliani managed to squeek by Mike Huckabee for third place. And that's not good enough.

Most news sources are now reporting that Giuliani will drop out now. The former NYC mayor had adopted a strategy of ignoring early races in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina where he was unlikely to win and betting everything on Florida. When he came up with that strategy he was leading in the polls in Florida. But time passed, the spotlight moved, and Giuliani's strategy came back to bite him.

Giuliani will endorse John McCain tomorrow in California, according to the Associated Press.

As I sit at my keyboard listening to the pundits on television, McCain seems to have already won the nomination. They talk abotu his electibilty and the winner-take-all states that he's going to take on February 5th. We'll see if they're right...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Why John Edwards is Still a Serious Candidate

John Edwards lost in South Carolina. He's lost in all the primaries and caucuses so far. But the question becomes, how is that relevant?

It may not be. The simple truth is that the Democratic nominating process is being held by precinct and Congressional district this time around - not by state. True, all the precinct in a state may vote on the same day, but the relationship almost ends there in most states. John Edwards may have lost in South Carolina, but he still left the state with eight new delegates committed to vote for him on at least the first ballot in Denver when the party has its nominating convention.

At the moment, after events where delegates were awarded in four states, Barack Obama has acquired 63 delegates committed to him through the primary/caucus process. Hillary has 48 and Edwards has 26. That means that Obama has gotten 46% of the hard delegates who are required to vote for him in the first round of balloting. Hillary has gotten 35% and Edwards about 19%. How many delegates do they need? Two Thousand and Twenty-Five (2025)...

We're a long way off. It doesn’t look like Edwards can come in first. But it doesn't look like anyone can win. And that means that Edwards could end up as the compromise candidate on a second (or third) round of balloting at the convention. He could truly end up being the nominee based on the support of the "grown up wing " of the Democratic Party after all the blood is mopped up from the Clinton-Obama fight.

Of course, he's not along in that. After a first ballot in which no one achieves the magic number of 2025 votes, we could end up with Bill Richardson or Al Gore or Mark Warner or, well, use your imagination...

If Edwards withdraws and the race becomes a two-candidate race, either Hillary or Obama will most definitely win. Personally, I think both of those candidates have electibility issues in the general election. And they look determined to cripple each other before the Democratic Convention.

Let's hope Edwards hangs on until Denver.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Indonesian Word Families

Indonesian has a very productive process of adding suffixes and prefixes to words in order to change their meaning. Below is one example.

The verb bicara means "to talk, to converse." (Note that the "c" in Indonesia corresponds to the "ch" sound in English.)

Verbs have derivational forms based on transitivity, intensity and strength of voice. So, for example
  • berbicara is intransitive and means "to talk" in sentences like "She talks a lot."
  • On the other hand, the prefix me- (often accompanied with the suffix -kan) makes membicarakan transitive, changing its meaning to "to talk" in sentences like "She is talking to Joe."
  • dibicarakan is passive: "Joe got talked to."
  • Pembicara means "a speaker."
  • and pembicaraan means "a discussion" or "a speech."
There are a number of derivational prefixes in Indonesian. I hope to look at more of them in the future. But as you can see, being able to identify and remove prefixes and suffixes is essential to identifying root words in Indonesia. And words are listed in the dictionary by their roots...