Some Final Conclusions and Potential Implications

My previous post referenced a number of statistical correlations between payroll size and a major league baseball team’s performance in any given season. My research has found that yes, there is a positive, statistically significant correlation between team payroll and winning percentage (my chosen measure of team performance).  But my research has gone a little more in depth than simply regressing winning percentage against payroll size.  As mentioned in my previous post, the data suggests that teams that spend equal amounts of money, but have a greater percentage of their funds invested in their pitchers perform better than teams that invest in their field players.

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The ethics of standardised tests and shallow learning

I can’t even remember how many times I have had to sit for a long, tedious, bubble-sheet standardised test. From state tests beginning in elementary school to secondary school admissions exams, and finally the SAT and subject tests, I have spent too many hours to count filling in bubbles. Started in China and spread to everywhere, standardised tests are now a critical part of our education system, affecting everything from getting into law school to tracking into advanced math in the 5th grade. (A history from Time Magazine can be found here: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1947019,00.html)
When considering the success of a learning tool, I have been trying to design test questions so that actual understanding is evident- aside from memorising dates and names and parroting textbooks, does an individual actually understand the connections between the facts? This is probing a little deeper than the average standardised test, in hopes that thorough knowledge will improve long-term retention and the ability to apply what you have learned in a new way, outside a familiar context. However, no matter how they learn and study material, an individual is still going to be evaluated the traditional way.
Standardised tests have been pretty controversial, and for good reason. Teachers often ‘teach to the test’, truncating a history lesson, for example, to what will be on state exams and skipping in-depth context that would promote understanding. However, there’s not enough time in the year to cover everything that’s on the test in that much detail. Hence, a bare-bones history of the United States becomes the standard.
The tests have also been shown to have significant skews, for example against minorities and against students from low-income families. These biases seem to indicate that the tests are designed for a certain individual to succeed, not intentionally but inadvertently catering to a certain demographic.
Most would also agree that standardised testing does not assess a person’s ability for deep thought but instead for quick recall of facts, and certainly everyone who has taken one knows that they are an uncomfortably stressful, long-lasting, and confining. Especially for students with disabilities testing can be harrowing, and accommodations may not compensate for the differences.
FairTest (http://fairtest.org/facts/whatwron.htm), an anti-testing organisation, has more arguments against testing, but no one can argue that, while they may not be accurate representations, they are practical for the purpose of sorting and assessing masses students.
For tests that do more to gauge critical thinking and understanding, the learning tool Professor Heideman has developed will definitely help. I personally don’t think that the methods of standardised testing can accurately measure a person’s proficiency in a subject. However, since standardised tests are in such wide use, I have included some ‘shallow memorisation’ questions on the test, in the same true/false and multiple choice formats you’ve seen all your life.

Bonaire 2011- Looking Back

After dozens of interviews, hours of field research, and some serious thought- I think I figured it out. I think I figured out why Bonaire has such a successful reef conservation program. It’s a combination of multiple factors, all of which feed off of each other to create a healthy and dynamic partnership between the human population and the environment. But what is the most important, most influential factor? The international conservation organization of Bonaire recognizes the importance of connectivity.

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Delving into Economic Geography

Despite combing through the records of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and all of the wonderful data they offered me, I can safely say the documents point to a straightforward answer as to why the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and the city were so successful.  Even after the United States economy suffered from the devastating effects of the Civil War, the mills and Manchester emerged in the Reconstruction Era resurgent and strong.  However, the dilemma that I struggle with amidst all of my research is grasping an understanding as to why Manchester and its millyard-based economy were able to accomplish such success.  What made Manchester, New Hampshire of all places in the United States, so well equipped as an economic system to withstand national turmoil and surpass the British industrial giant?
As a result, I decided to refocus my research from the documents and records of the Manchester Historic Association to those of that pertained to how cities themselves work as an economic unit.  In doing so, I found myself immersed in a field of study that I was personally unfamiliar with: economic geography.  Economic geography in its most basic form primarily emphasizes “man’s production and transportation of goods in relation to the patterns of physical features and resources on the earth’s surface” (Fellman 314).  For this nature of research, I took into account the urban geography of the city of Manchester and used this to guide my examination of the economic system in the city of Manchester.  I definitely feel this was the best decision I made for the direction of my research due to the underlying fact that the city of Manchester itself was completely planned as an economic center from its founding.  More importantly, the city was created by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company so that the layout and the growth of the city would be directly tied into the mill yard industries.
As a result, the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company had essentially built their industrial complex into the format of a city.  They had secured their main mill yards and manufacturing plants along the Merrimack River which runs directly through the heart of the modern city and from their built the city into what current New Hampshire residents can see everyday.  Right next to the mills, the AMC built a number of residential buildings for the first inhabitants of their newly created city to reside in, knowing full well that most of the actual residents would be their own employees.  Subsequently, when the AMC hired it employees, they had to sign a contract that required them to live in these company-controlled dormitories.  Therefore, as both landlords and employers, the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company had created an urban living environment that inherently worked to optimize the performance of their workers and their economic system as a whole.  Essentially, the geographical construction of the city around the Merrimack River mill yards made the urban area conducive to the success of the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and, subsequently, the entirety of Manchester.