365 days of gratitude

March 5, 2018

My two yearly dental checkups are usually painless.

The latest one found no holes and left me with very clean teeth .

Whether it’s the luck of the genetic draw, or parents who insisted on dental hygiene and administered fluoride tablets when I was a child, I’m grateful.


Word of the day

March 5, 2018

Microbiome – a community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body; combined genetic material of the microorganisms in a particular environment; the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or on the human body or in another environment.


Rural round-up

March 5, 2018

Upset farmers still in the dark – Annette Scott:

Farmers desperately seeking answers feel they have been left in limbo as the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis takes hold and still the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says it has no clear idea how it got here.

The ministry has confirmed the outbreak could cost $100 million in tracking and tracing the spread of the disease and paying compensation to farmers. It initially budgeted for $35m.

With too many gaps and too few answers farmers are understandably anxious about whether the Government is going to eradicate it, Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis said. . . 

Healthy Rivers plan drags out – Richard Rennie:

Waikato farmers have found an upside in the continuing delays plaguing the Healthy Rivers plan and believe critical dates in it might be pushed out beyond the original timeframe.

Despite being notified in October 2016 the plan was derailed late that year when Hauraki iwi objected to part of the catchment being included, subject to that iwi’s claim over its ownership.

That required the plan to be effectively split with the 12% or 120,000ha of the catchment affected by the claim becoming subject to negotiation between iwi and the council on Healthy Rivers conditions, before being re-notified.

But Waikato Federated Farmers president Andrew McGiven said farmers are conscious the plan has some specific dates in it requiring them to submit nitrogen reference points by March next year. . . 

Higher meat yield from Beltex breed – Nicole Sharp:

Former Invermay head Dr Jock Allison, his wife Hilary and Canterbury farmer Blair Gallagher had the Beltex breed on show at this year’s Southern Field Days.

Together with farm adviser John Tavendale, and their families, the group is behind Beltex New Zealand, which has brought the breed to New Zealand.

”They’re a double-muscled Texel, with higher meat yield, bigger eye muscle areas, bigger legs. It’s all a plus in terms of meat production,” Dr Allison said.

The breed was imported from the UK, and was originally from Belgium and Holland. . . 

Mānuka honey definition could change if new science is developed – Gerard Hutching:

The definition for mānuka honey may be revised if fresh science shows the need, Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Martyn Dunne says.

MPI first announced the definition on December 11 last year but beekeepers objected to an aspect of the definition that required a kilogram of monofloral or multifloral honey contain at least five micrograms of  2′-methoxyacetophenone (known as 2 MAP).

They threatened legal action, claiming it would cost the industry $100 million. . . 

Live goat exports to Asia in demand – Yvonne O’Hara:

More pure and composite meat goats are needed to fill four planned shipments of live goats and goat meat to Asian clients in the next few months, says Shingle Creek Chevon partner Dougal Laidlaw, of Clyde.

As the market for live exports was competitive, he did not wish to say which countries or clients the goats were going to.

However, he wanted to hear from farmers who might be interested in supplying or rearing goats, both for live and meat export as well as for the domestic top end restaurant trade.

”It will be a struggle to get enough animals,” Mr Laidlaw said. . . 

What turns some law-abiding Canadians into smugglers? The high price of imported cheese. – Nate Tabak:

Clara is a college student in Toronto, and in a few days, she’s flying home to Paris to visit her family and friends. She also stopping at a fromagerie to buy some cheese to bring back to Canada, specifically Comté, a cousin of Gruyere made under strict rules in the French Alps. 

“It’s not gooey, and you know it’s not going to give a scent to your entire suitcase,” Clara says. Comté is also a lot cheaper in France. It’s easy to find at supermarkets for the equivalent of about $6 or $7 a pound. In Canada, it’s both a lot harder to find, and it’s usually at least $20 a pound.

Clara’s yearly ritual becomes a source of anxiety when she flies back to Canada and prepares to face a border officer — and that dreaded question: “Are you bringing in any food?” . . 

 


NCEA not achieving literacy & numeracy

March 5, 2018

The New Zealand Initiative looks at the costs of NCEA:

Ministry data shows that between 2001 and 2016 the difference between the percentage of Māori and All students achieving Level 3 (or its equivalent) has narrowed. However, in the more meaningful benchmark of University Entrance, the gap has grown even wider.

International PISA data shows that since testing began in 2002, New Zealand’s educational equity has worsened and our 15-year-olds’ reading, maths and science scores have almost constantly declined. This contrasts starkly with the same period’s NCEA data, which shows ever-improving performance and rising equity.

If NCEA data can paint a picture of constant improvement, while almost all other measures expose decline, there is reason to believe we have a problem.

Added to this, 2014 research by the Tertiary Education Commission found that within a sample of 800 Year 12 students with NCEA Level 2, 40% failed an international test of functional reading and 42% failed it in numeracy. How can students be succeeding in NCEA when they lack basic skills in reading and maths?

In pursuit of flexibility and inclusion, NCEA all but abandoned the idea of a core curriculum requirement. Instead, nowadays, students need only ten loosely defined Level 1 credits in literacy and in numeracy. Beyond this, all subjects – from meat processing to mathematics – are valued equally.

This means well-advised or motivated students can still achieve a broad and valuable education. However, for poorly-advised or less motivated students, NCEA also offers a plethora of ‘safer’ alternatives. These will maximise NCEA success by avoiding academically challenging content. With pressure on teachers and schools to drive up NCEA pass rates, some students may even be encouraged towards these safer choices.

This way, NCEA’s flexibility ensures almost all students achieve a qualification, and creates glowing headline figures for government and schools. However, the downside is that NCEA also masks huge variation in students’ achievements; it widens disadvantage while hiding it behind an alluring façade.

A system which shows improvements while literacy and numeracy rates are declining, enables pupils to take less challenging subjects that count as equal to more challenging ones, masks variations in achievements and widens disadvantages would, by NCEA’s measure get a not achieved.

It’s not just pupils who lose with NCEA:

NCEA exerts unintended negative consequences on the most important interaction in schooling: that between teacher and student.

For example, although chunking enables course flexibility, it also increases assessment volume. And because most assessment now happens internally, NCEA increases teachers’ workloads.

‘Teaching to the test’ describes the practice of coaching students in the detail of exam questions and selected content, to boost their short-term performance in assessments rather than their long-term learning. Some teaching to the test is inevitable with any high stakes assessment. However, at least three features of NCEA’s flexible design exacerbate the practice.

And NCEA doesn’t achieve for employers either:

Many employers are vexed by NCEA’s complexity and disappointed by school leavers’ skills. Although University Entrance restricts NCEA’s flexibility, too many students miss out because they fail to realise the implications of their choices. Universities also reverse-engineer NCEA data to create crude, yet life-defining rankings.

The Initiative makes seven recommendations that will:

 . . .raise expectations and equity by creating a safety-net of core subjects all students must master. They will reduce teachers’ workloads and the volume of assessment, reduce the opportunities and incentives to teach to the test, and improve teaching and learning.

Recommendation 1Raise English (and Te Reo) and maths requirements: The government should amend NCEA so that achievement at Level 1 or higher requires a minimum number of Level 1 credits in the core subjects of English (or Te Reo) and maths. This new list of eligible standards should replace the current literacy and numeracy requirements. It should also demand levels of mastery that ensure all students with NCEA also meet international benchmarks for functional literacy and numeracy.

Recommendation 2Expect a broader core of subjects: The government should signal higher expectations of the breadth of core subjects all students must master in school (two suggestions as to how this might be achieved are given in the final chapter).

Recommendation 3Reduce the number of standards: The government should reduce the number of standards so that within a particular subject there is minimal to no choice and each standard covers a bigger and broader set of skills and knowledge (there is far less ‘chunking down’). The optimal size and number of standards may vary for different subjects, to be determined by subject and assessment experts. However, broadly the ambition might be set to reduce the number of standards in a subject at each level from 6–8 to 1–3.

Recommendation 4Make it harder to teach to the test: The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) should rely more heavily on the reassurance provided by elements of norm-referencing (e.g. PEPs and the cut score procedure during grade score marking) to move away from such close matching of external assessment to past assessments and specifications. Instead, they should inject elements of ‘surprise’ that encourage teachers to teach the breadth of their subject’s curriculum, rather than to its assessments. Reference tests could also be deployed to help examiners identify national level changes in students’ performance over time.

Recommendation 5: Reduce reliance on internal assessment: The government should reduce NCEA’s reliance on internal assessment, so it is used only where external assessments cannot capture performance in essential areas.

Recommendation 6: Use Comparative Judgement software: NZQA should use Comparative Judgement (CJ) software to improve the reliability and efficiency of the processes available to judge external and internal assessments. CJ would also better capture genuine quality in essay-type assessments, and equip assessors to ask more open-ended and creative questions.

Recommendation 7: Commission independent analysis: The Ministry of Education should openly evaluate NCEA’s effects by commissioning and publishing independent analysis (various suggestions are given in the final chapter).

Recommendations 1-5 trade some of NCEA’s flexibility for higher equity and standards. In the short term, they may generate a drop in NCEA achievement. However, in the longer-term, these recommendations will raise expectations, equity and outcomes across the board.

Education, especially literacy and numeracy, is one of the surest pathways out of poverty.

The current assessment system is failing pupils, over-burdening teachers and is not helpful for potential employers.

Knowing what a pupil has achieved in details might be helpful for practical subjects, for example an employer at a clothing factory might want to know a prospective employee can sew button holes.

But for general subjects the details don’t matter. Employers who looked at a CV and saw a pass mark in University Entrance geography, knew the pupil could read, write and reason. By contrast NCEA results would show a lot of detail that meant nothing and could mask that the pupil was illiterate and innumerate.

NCEA isn’t achieving. It must change and change quickly.

 


Quote of the day

March 5, 2018

Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what’s wrong with it. –  Sir Rex Harrison who was born on this day in 1908.


March 5 in history

March 5, 2018

1046 Naser Khosrow began the seven-year Middle Eastern journey which he will later describe in his book Safarnama.

1133 – King Henry II of England, was born (d. 1189).

1324  King David II of Scotland, was born (d. 1371).

1326 Louis I of Hungary, was born (d. 1382).

1496 King Henry VI  issued letters patent to John Cabot and his sons, authorising them to explore unknown lands.

1766 Antonio de Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana arrived in New Orleans.

1770 Boston Massacre: Five Americans, were killed by British troops.

1784 Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney was named President of the Board of Trade.

1824 First Burmese War: The British officially declare war on Burma.

1836 Samuel Colt made the first production-model revolver, the .34-caliber.

1850 The Britannia Bridge across the Menai Strait between the Isle of Anglesey and the mainland of Wales opened.

1860 Parma, Tuscany, Modena and Romagna voted in referenda to join theKingdom of Sardinia.

1868  A court of impeachment was organized in the United States Senate to hear charges against President Andrew Johnson.

1868 – Mefistofele, an opera by Arrigo Boito receives its première performance at La Scala.

1872  George Westinghouse patented the air brake.

1904 Nikola Tesla, in Electrical World and Engineer, described the process of the ball lightning formation.

1908  Sir Rex Harrison, English actor, was born  (d. 1990).

1912 Italian forces were the first to use airships for military purposes, using them for reconnaissance behind Turkish lines.

1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a “bank holiday”, closing all U.S. banks and freezing all financial transactions.

1936 Canaan Banana, first President of Zimbabwe, was born (d. 2003).

1937 Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ, President of Nigeria, was born.

1940 Members of Soviet politburo signed an order for the execution of 25,700 Polish intelligentsia, including 14,700 Polish POWs, known also as the Katyn massacre.

1942 Felipe González, Prime Minister of Spain, was born.

1943 First flight of Gloster Meteor jet aircraft in the United Kingdom.

1946 Winston Churchill used the phrase “Iron Curtain” in his speech at Westminster College, Missouri.

1946 Hungarian Communists and Social Democrats co-founded the Left Bloc.

1948 Elaine Paige, English singer and actress, was born.

1949 The Jharkhand Party was founded in India.

1952  – Alan Clark, English keyboardist (Dire Straits), was born.

1958 The Explorer 2 spacecraft launched and failed to reach Earth orbit.

1960 The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis originated when Alister Hardy publicly announced his idea that ape-human divergence may have been due to a coastal phase.

1962 Charlie and Craig Reid, Scottish musicians (The Proclaimers), were born.

1965 March Intifada: A Leftist uprising erupts in Bahrain against British colonial presence.

1966 BOAC Flight 911 crashed on Mount Fuji  killing 124.

1970 John Frusciante, American musician (Red Hot Chili Peppers), was born.

1970 The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty went into effect after ratification by 43 nations.

1973 Donald DeFreeze, the future Symbionese Liberation Army leader, escaped from Vacaville Prison.

1974 Yom Kippur War: Israeli forces withdrew from the west bank of the Suez Canal.

1975 First meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club

1978 The Landsat 3 was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

1979 Soviet probes Venera 11Venera 12 and the American solar satelliteHelios 2 were hit by “off the scale” gamma rays leading to the discovery ofsoft gamma repeaters.

1979 – Voyager 1‘s closest approach to Jupiter, 172,000 miles.

1982 Daniel Carter, New Zealand rugby player, was born.

1982 Venera 14, a Soviet satellite, arrived at Venus.

1984 –  6,000 Miners in the United Kingdom began their historic strike at Cortonwood Colliery.

1999 Paul Okalik was elected first Premier of Nunavut.

2001 In Mecca, 35 Muslim pilgrims were crushed to death during the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

2003 17 Israeli civilians were killed by a Hamas suicide bomb in the Haifa bus 37 massacre.

2012 – Invisible Children launched the Stop Kony campaign with the release of Kony 2012.

2012 – At least two people were killed and six injured after a shooting in a hair salon in Bucharest, Romania.

2013 – New Zealand’s census was held after a 2-year delay as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes.

Census held after two-year delay

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia


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