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About Spartan Ideas

Spartan Ideas is a collection of thoughts, ideas, and opinions independently written by members of the MSU community and curated by MSU Libraries


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Running into Roosevelt

On my weekly visit to the MSU Libraries new book shelf, I’ve been running into books that in some way or another bring up Franklin Roosevelt and his presidency. One of my more recent finds is Professor Scott Myers-Lipton’s Ending Extreme Inequality: An Economic Bill of Rights to Eliminate Poverty (Paradigm Publishers, 2015). Myers-Lipton looks …


Is Michigan Turning Away Good Teachers?

In late 2013, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) announced changes to the examination prospective teachers are required to pass in order to obtain a Michigan teaching certificate. Specifically, the difficulty of the Professional Readiness Examination (PRE), which is considered a test of the basic skills a teacher needs to be effective, was set at …


Badges Redux

It’s 5:37 as I write this. Getting late in the day for a blog this Sunday in May. And I’m tired. … Tired of playing the game… Ain’t it a shame? I’m soo tired….Dammit I’m exhausted! Those are about the only lyrics I feel good about quoting from Madeline Kahn’s send-up of Marlene Dietrich. I’ve …


Summer is Coming: Teaching and Learning During the Summer Months

Ample research has documented the phenomenon of “summer learning loss,” referring to the loss of learning that most students experience over the summer while out of school. Significant research shows that summer learning loss disproportionately impacts low-income students who lose as much as two months of reading achievement while out of school for the summer. This is …


Death and Landscapes: Why Does Location Matter?

This week, I’m attending the Cultural Landscapes and Heritage Values conference at UMass Amherst. I am going to be speaking Thursday at the 8-10 am session, “Universities as Examples of Cultural Heritage Planning, Understanding Landscapes, and Being Sustainable”, sponsored by the Society for American Archaeology. Based on the title, you can probably figure out that …


Juve and Me

[iOS users click here to listen.] Juventus, the Old Lady of Italian football, is in the Champions League final for the first time since 2003. In an interview I did a year ago with Austin Long for the Soccer Nomad podcast, I explain how I came to support the bianconeri in the mid-1970s despite being …


House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs Memo on Fee-to-Trust and Important Context

Today, the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs is conducting a hearing entitled: “Inadequate Standards for Trust Land Acquisition in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.” In advance of the hearing, the Majority Staff circulated a memo calling the fee-to-trust provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act into question. Felix Cohen has described …


Hell Hath No Fury Like a Dependency Scorned

There is a recent package for the R statistics system named “Radiant”, available either through the CRAN repository or from the author’s GitHub site. It runs R in the background and lets you poke at data in a browser interface. If you are looking for a way to present data to end-users and let them …


New kids on the blockchain

WSJ reports on institutional interest in blockchain technologies. WSJ: Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. is testing a new use of the technology that underpins the digital currency bitcoin, in a bid to transform the trading of shares in private companies. The experiment joins a slew of financial-industry forays into bitcoin-related technology. If the effort is deemed …


Vocabulary Builder

I spent a good hour and a half this morning struggling over a blog for the Oxford University Press website, and now I’m pooped. I don’t even know whether they will take it, so I feel like I’m letting both of my regular readers for the Thornapple blog down. I’m sworn off of my usual …


Our Kids and Coming Apart

Nick Lemann reviews Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam. At the descriptive level, Putnam’s conclusions seem very similar to those of Charles Murray in Coming Apart. Of course, description is much easier to obtain than causality. NYBooks: … By the logic of the book, access to social capital ought to …


School Punishments and the Over Reliance on Suspensions

School discipline in the United States has grown more punitive in recent years. More students are being subjected to punishments for minor offenses than in previous years. As a result, students are not able to benefit from the instruction that is taking place in the classroom. Due to this increased use of punitive disciplinary action …


Michigan Lakefront Property Owner Survey

We are conducting a study of lakeshore properties that is important for informing shoreline and fisheries management approaches this summer. This study is part of an effort to learn how people who own or lease shoreline properties make decisions regarding shoreline and aquatic plants on their properties. The results will be used by lake and …


2015 Soybeans: Planting and PRE applications

This year we have been using every window of opportunity to get our major weed control studies planted. This is the first year we have gotten corn in during April, ever. We also had an early opportunity to get the bulk of our soybean studies planted this week. Many of our studies have treatements with …


FDR the TA and more online teaching fun

In my last post, I shared a peek into my adventures recording videos for an online course. It’s easy for online classes to become sterile and impersonal, so in the instructional team I’m on, we feel that it’s important to include videos, since they provide some semblance of face-to-face contact. The problem, though, is that …


Shares of the Testing Market

Testing is costly. Test development as well as test administration will cost states and the federal government millions and even billions of dollar over years (ref. here). The two big common core test consortia – Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Consortium– were awarded over …


Strange Bedfellows in Michigan Charters: Unionization and Teach for America-Associated Teachers

Over the past month, numerous charter schools in Detroit have experienced ample turmoil associated with charter management organizations (CMOs). CMO New Urban Learning (NUL) ended its relationship with Detroit’s University YES Academy as a result of recent charter schools teacher unionization efforts. Closely behind University YES Academy are two U Prep Schools who are working …


Books Mentioned at LOEX 2015

I always come back from conferences with a list of books to read, and this year’s LOEX conference was particularly fruitful in that regard. For anyone interested in some of the works that are informing the thinking of instruction librarians, here is a (most definitely incomplete) list of books and articles I heard mentioned:* Grant …


Model Credibility

Someone asked an interesting question on a support forum recently. The gist was: “How do I confirm that my model is correct?” On the occasions that I taught simulation modeling, this was a standard topic. Looking back, I don’t recall spending nearly as much time on it when teaching optimization, which was a mistake on …


Colleges to Recognize Common Core Test in Course Placement

On April 15, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), one of the two common core testing consortia, announced an agreement with almost 200 colleges and universities in 6 states to use its classification of college preparedness to exempt students from remedial coursework. Included in the agreement are all public institutions of higher education in Delaware, …