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Benchmark Assessments: Weighing the Pig More Often?

As a practicing teacher, I always thought benchmark assessments were worthless and that I had more in-depth knowledge about a child’s progress than would be demonstrated on an exam. Boots on the ground are so important! This is an excellent blog post to explain the effectiveness of benchmark assessments.

Robert Slavin's Blog

There is an old saying about educational assessment: “If you want to fatten a pig, it doesn’t help to weigh it more often.”

To be fair, it may actually help to weigh pigs more often, so the farmer knows whether they are gaining weight at the expected levels. Then they can do something in time if this is not the case.

It is surely correct that weighing pigs does no good in itself, but it may serve a diagnostic purpose. What matters is not the weighing, but rather what the farmer or veterinarian does based on the information provided by the weighing.

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This blog is not, however, about porcine policy, but educational policy. In schools, districts, and even whole states, most American children take “benchmark assessments” roughly three to six times a year. These assessments are intended to tell teachers, principals, and other school leaders how students are doing, especially in…

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As Directed–pharmaceutical poisoning

As Directed

by Kathleen Valenti

As DirectedIf you have a master’s degree in pharmacology but come up on the wrong side of Big Pharmaceuticals, you might end up like Maggie O’Malley as a pharmacy technician working her way up to becoming a pharmacist. Along the way Maggie stumbles over dead bodies, gets wound up in several investigations, and finds that her deadly nemesis has been released from jail.

As Directed by Kathleen Valenti is a complicated mystery that makes you feel like you are in a maze. There are lots of victims and many potential criminals. Maggie makes an engaging main character, trying to do the right things but often stumbling along in the frustrating fog of post-concussion syndrome. Her ever supportive boyfriend Constantine is  always ready with IT help and amusing quips.  His pet hamster Miss Vanilla and a stray dog that the couple is “definitely” not going to keep make multiple appearances along with interesting characters who people the book. I recommend this book as a fascinating whodunit especially if you like mysteries with a medical bent.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   March 12, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Levon Petrofina was particular to the point of rigidity, committed to not just following the letter of the law but alphabetizing each letter.

She used to think of the place where she shoved the uncomfortable, the painful, as the Wall. Now she realized she had added to her repertoire of denial, creating a blister around her heart that encapsulated the feelings and memories she wanted so desperately to avoid.

Broken out windows gaped like empty eye sockets. The front door, splintered and half off its hinges, sagged in a toothless frown.

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road: A Biker’s Devotional

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road

by Tim Riter

God, a Motorcycle, and the Open RoadI couldn’t imagine what a devotional with a motorcycle focus would be like. If you are a motorcycle rider or aficionado, then the answer found in Tim Riter’s God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road is fascinating, inspiring, and FUN. It could be read over the course of a year with one chapter per week, allowing the reader to absorb and apply the Biblical truths. One day I may do that, but for this reading I devoured, it not wanting to put it aside.

Having logged more than 240,000 miles on two wheels in 46 states, Tim Riter loves short rides, long rides (including Iron Butt), hot and cold rides, solo and group trips. He loves God and sees a strong connection between motorcycling and his faith. The chapters in God, a Motorcycle, and the Open Road are formatted to begin with personal anecdotes from Riter’s many motorcycle trips. Then he finds lessons in the stories and connects them to spiritual truths. He finishes each section with “Kick-Starting the Application,” encouraging readers to challenge themselves.

Come along with God and Tim on motorcycle adventures, some painfully hilarious stories by a master storyteller, and some life changing lessons. You will be glad you did.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harvest House Publishers for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Religion and Spirituality

Publication:   April 2, 2019—Harvest House Publishers

Memorable Lines:

Why does God sometimes rescue some of his people and not rescue others? I have no clue….But I do trust his love even more than I trust his power. I suspect that’s the key. God’s omniscience trumps our finite knowledge. I’ve seen enough of his love to have faith in it.

Honda’s engineers want to provide the best riding experience. The closer we follow their design, the better we ride. God wants to provide our best life experience. The closer we follow his design, the better we live.

Frankly, leaning on God sometimes makes no more sense to our finite minds than does leaning a bike into a curve at speed. But that lean allows us to get through the curve. And reminding ourselves that God loves us in all of our trials and failures, that he always works for good, allows us to survive the curves of life.

Trip North of the Border

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Bienvenido a Casa!

Welcome Home!

This little lady and about 20 more greeted us on our arrival at our cabin in Northern New Mexico last week.20190402_155707_resized

We have returned a little early due to some events north and south of the border.  It is not the pretty scene of midwinter with everything covered in a white snowy dress. The  display is piles of dirty snow, some ponds where there were none, and muddy areas with deer prints. Although it is not pretty, it is a welcome relief from the drought of recent years. As soon as the temps rise, we should see a lot of green as the trees and grass spring to life.

But backtracking a little, we had four long days of travel with 2 dogs in tow to get from the middle of Mexico to Northern New Mexico. We spent 3 hours inching along in our manual transmission pickup at the border crossing into the U.S. Here are a few pictures of the Plaza de las Culturas (Plaza of Cultures) as you exit Mexico at Tres Piedras to cross over into Eagle Pass. We have crossed there before, but I hadn’t really noticed the replicas of ancient temples, because in the past we had zipped right past them.

One highlight of the trip for me was the small Texas town of Eldorado. On our trips from New Mexico to east Texas, we have fun finding the doughnut shops as we pass through little towns. We don’t eat at all of them, but Eden, for example, has delicious fresh doughnuts. On this trip, the doughnut shop in Eldorado appeared to be closed. As my husband turned around to tell me the bad news, a sheriff’s vehicle pulled in. We had a friendly conversation, and he shared that the doughnut shop was now part of the liquor store in town. He not only gave us directions, but when I pulled out to go there, I found he was at the stop light waiting for us and gave us an escort! As in many small towns, for purposes of survival, the shop (called A’s) was not only a doughnut and liquor store but also a short order grill and convenience store with some of the nicest owners you would want to meet. Texas friendliness at its best! 

As we were leaving town, we pulled over for GPS adjustments and I hopped out and snapped some gorgeous 

Bluebonnets!

As my lack of inactivity on my own blog and those I follow demonstrates, the last few weeks have been hectic–preparing for the trip, making the journey, and transitioning into life in the U.S. again. I am so far behind, that I will probably alleviate the stress of unread blogs by deleting most of my email notices. My apologies. The good news is that, perhaps, due to a new tower and Internet provider in my rural area, I may actually have a good connection this summer. I am currently using a loaner device and it is fabulous. Under past “normal” conditions, I would be unable to make this blog post. If my actual connection is only half of what I am currently getting, I will still be happy. I find I have less time in the U.S. for reading and reviewing as I have a different lifestyle here, but the future looks bright!

 

I Owe You One–the power of guilt

I Owe You One

by Sophie Kinsella

I Owe You OneI have read and enjoyed a number of books by Sophie Kinsella who is perhaps most famous for her Shopaholic series. Then I read one that just didn’t have the same zing and humor, so I entered I Owe You One with some trepidation. I am pleased to report that Kinsella’s latest book lives up to her standards and my expectations. At first I was a little concerned there would be too much predictability. The main character’s name is Fixie, derived from her penchant for fixing things ranging from the placement of objects to personal relationships. OCD is definitely in play as she struggles not to rearrange things or declare her every thought. As Fixie’s high school heartthrob reenters her life, the reader is watching a foreseeable train wreck: “No, Fixie, don’t do it!”

The plot leaves the anticipated pathway soon after with lots of surprises in store. It does not focus solely on Fixie’s love life. Fixie also struggles with family relationships which are closely tied with the family business. You will like Fixie if for no other reason than she tries so hard in everything she does. She feels like a failure, is loaded with unwarranted guilt, and carries the torch for making everything turn out right and keeping everyone happy—a big burden for one person.

There are many other interesting major and minor characters you will meet, but not all of them are likable, of course. The setting is West London where the denizens range from scruffy to posh. The book flows nicely with lots of humor and is a fast and enjoyable read.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Dial Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Dial Press

Memorable Lines:

When I think how I believed his version of everything, how I rationalized everything he said and did, I feel warm with stupidity. But he was so convincing.

Ryan’s pathological, I’ve realized. He says anything to anyone to get out of whatever situation he’s in. Truth doesn’t count, integrity doesn’t count, love doesn’t even figure. Yelling at him would be like yelling at a rock. It’s never going to change.

I learned that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means you’re a human being.

Criminally Cocoa–disappointing

Criminally Cocoa

by Amanda Flowers

Criminally CocoaI have read books in two different series by Amanda Flowers and generally find her plots intriguing, her characters interesting, and her writing style excellent. Criminally Cocoa, except for the kitschy title, was disappointing. Normally I like the rare cozy mystery that doesn’t revolve around a murder. No murder here, but no plot success either. Flowers and her characters kept strolling through the same territory with two themes (Amish girl in the big city and the success or failure of a new cooking show) over and over again. Fortunately this book is a novella. Otherwise, I would have broken my own rule for my book world and not finished the book. I did complete it, but only so I could write a proper review.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 2/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Novella in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series

Recipe for Bailey’s Easy Easter Birds’ Nests included.

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Kensington Press

Restaurant Weeks are Murder–competition in the kitchen

Restaurant Weeks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Restaurant Weeks are MurderOnce again Libby Klein treats her readers to the adventures of Poppy McAllister, creator of wonderful, gluten free pastries and owner of a B&B, and her octogenarian Aunt Ginny, a spunky lady with an attitude. In Restaurant Weeks are Murder, Poppy competes on her ex-boyfriend’s team of three with other restaurant teams on a taped production of a competition. Chefs are provided baskets of mystery ingredients which must be incorporated into the culinary creations. What could go wrong? Plenty!

The characters in this series are always fun, and there are a variety of romantic attractions. Restaurant Week is a full seven days which makes the story perhaps a tad too long, but with different disasters occurring each day, and with complicated backgrounds and motives, attention stays high. A cozy mystery to pique your interest and appetite!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Poppy McAllister Murder Series, but works as a standalone.

Recipes are included.

Publication:  February 26, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

I plopped down on the floor in the sunroom and ran a brush through Figaro’s black smoke fur. He hummed like a Harley, his copper eyes slitty like two winter crescent moons reflecting on the Atlantic.

When I’m with Gia, I feel like my heart explodes, and my brain goes mush. But when I’m with Tim, I’m home again. He’s all I’ve ever wanted, and the years just melt away.

“Don’t be salty with me. I’ve seen you without makeup.”

I could tell Miss New Jersey was trying to wrap her brain around what Gigi was saying. The strain of it was making a wrinkle in her perfect forehead. I had to intervene before she passed out from the stress.

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