From the CURMUDGUCATION blog: Camus’s Teacher (Evaluate That)

CURMUDGUCATIONWednesday, March 9, 2016

Camus’s Teacher (Evaluate That)

I came across this story on Maria Popova’s unendingly swell website, Brain Pickings.

French philosopher and writer Albert Camus did not consider himself an existentialist (even though that’s what my high school English teacher taught me he was); he was, however, a fairly relentless force for meaning, beauty and absurdity, arguing for “the total absence of hope, which has nothing to do with despair, a continual refusal, which must not be confused with renouncement – and a conscious dissatisfaction.”

Life may be hopeless, but that doesn’t mean it has to suck.

Camus was rendered fatherless before he was even one year old, thanks to the Great European War, and that left him at the mercy of a mother and grandmother who were decidedly Not Awesome.

But there was a teacher.

As Popova puts it in a testament to what happens when education lives up to its highest potential to ennoble the human spirit, a teacher named Louis Germaine saw in young Albert something special.

In 1957, Camus became the second-youngest to receive the Nobel Prize.

Within days, he sent off this letter:

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honor, one I neither sought nor solicited. But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you.

Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened. I don’t make too much of this sort of honor.

But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil.

I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

Is there any teacher who wouldn’t be moved by such a letter from an accomplished former student who has just received one of human-kind’s highest honors?

Is there any teacher who thinks that such a letter would be inspired by diligently preparing students to get a good score on a pointless standardized test?

Never doubt that teachers make a positive difference, and a difference far beyond simply preparing students to successfully complete some pointless bureaucratic tasks.

Posted by Peter Greene at Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Camus’s Teacher (Evaluate That)

Manhattan Institute Website Grades Schools Based on Mirage of Poorly Linked Computations 

The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research released in the fall of 2015 a website,, which claims to use an international standard of excellence to grade how well America’s schools prepare students in core subjects. Grading projects of this sort are only as useful as the transparency and merits of the underlying data and calculations. In this case, the site is rife with technical and logical shortcomings.

Jaime L. Del Razo, a Principal Associate at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Brown University’s Department of Education, reviewed the website for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Education. evaluates and assigns grades, using reading and math test scores, to U.S. schools, comparing schools across their respective states and to other countries. The site’s creators never fully explain their approach, but it apparently uses a four-step process: (1) average two state test scores; (2) “norm” these results to the NAEP exam; (3) make an adjustment to this nationally normed measure using free and reduced price lunch data to account at least partially for differences in socioeconomic status; and (4) “norm” these results to the international PISA exam.

The website alleges that this process allows a parent to compare a local school to schools in other countries, yet the unsubstantiated norming chain is too tenuous and the results are overly extrapolated to be of any useful value. It fails to explain how international scores are equated to the national standard they developed, how letter grades were determined, and how free and reduced price lunch counts were used to make socioeconomic adjustments. The challenge facing the creators of this project was to equate scores on the various tests, yet none of the field’s abundant equating research is even cited.

Professor Del Razo concludes that the website’s reliance on aggregated test scores is far too narrow a base to serve as a useful evaluation of schools. He also points out that it perpetuates the misuse of testing as the best way to assess a school’s worth despite ample research to the contrary. Thus, its approach to evaluating schools fails on technical grounds and, just as importantly, it fails to understand and consider the broader purposes of education in a democratic society.

Find Professor Del Razo’s review at:

Find, with researchers Jacob L. Vigdor and Josh B. McGee, a product of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) Think Twice Think Tank Review Project ( provides the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Source: Manhattan Institute Website Grades Schools Based on Mirage of Poorly Linked Computations | National Education Policy Center