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Rebirth of Reason

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Post 20

Thursday, February 5, 2009 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
The crowded dormitories at NCSSM should give candidates pause per this story:

Three students at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics had to be moved out of their dormitory after a state official said their narrow rooms were only big enough for janitor's closets.

The students were among 39 displaced because of building code violations. Thirty-six were back in their rooms by Friday, two days after the school received a letter from the N.C. Department of Insurance outlining the violations in Hunt Dormitory.

The remaining three could not be returned because their rooms were 6 feet 5 inches wide, shy of the minimum width of 7 feet.

Although the problems were fixed in a timely fashion, you have to wonder about a school that shoves its students into janitor's closets!

Post 21

Friday, May 1, 2009 - 5:34amSanction this postReply

Post 22

Friday, May 1, 2009 - 9:13amSanction this postReply
One other possible path involves taking the General Educational Development (GED) examination after tenth grade and jumping into community college full time. This has its own advantages and drawbacks. I leave their discovery to the reader. Amazon sells numerous books to prepare students for the GED.

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Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 23

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 - 8:14amSanction this postReply
I would not hesitate to encourage smart young people to take the GED early and start college early rather than attend NCSSM.

This especially holds true for those who can take their core classes on their laptops online at home in the comfort of their recliners before having to leave home to complete college.

See "Exploring the GED for Fun and Profit" for more.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 6/09, 9:28am)

Post 24

Sunday, June 14, 2009 - 11:47amSanction this postReply
An anonymous critic recently distributed this analysis of recent, questionable financial decisions at NCSSM which I decided to share despite its lack of references, footnotes, and brevity.


The Financial Crisis in NC -- Dealing with it at NCSSM
Raising some questions in March 2009

The Board of Trustees of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics met on the Durham campus on Friday, March 6. Board members and the general public attending that meeting heard yet another presentation by the architectural firm of Ayers Saint Gross detail the plans for the $100,000,000 -- yes, 100 million dollars -- addition to the Durham high school which opened in 1980 as the nation's first residential school for 11th and 12th graders who exhibit exceptional talent and interest in mathematics and science. The chancellor, Gerald Boarman, wants to increase the student body by roughly 50%, adding 300 more students to the small residential campus. While there may be solid arguments for and against increasing the size of the student body, there is no reasonable man or woman in NC who would suggest that spending $100 million dollars to serve 300 students is feasible given the State's current financial crisis. While the $100 million would enhance the current-size student body's experiences, we need only look to the school's history -- and Boarman's own recent statements - to understand that the school is doing an outstanding job now, with the physical plant it has available now. Furthermore, with the increased emphasis on and availability of distance education programs for high school students, including those offered by NC community colleges, UNC constituent institutions, NC private colleges, and, yes, even NCSSM itself, there is ample reason to question the need to increase the size of the on-campus student body. This is particularly so given the current administration's recruitment and admissions policies which have led to a nearly 40% drop in the average number of black students entering the school. In the pre-Boarman period from 1992-1998, NCSSM averaged 55 black students per class; in the post-Boarman period from 2001 to 2008, that average dropped to 33. In fact, those familiar with the history of the school would likely suggest that the drop in black enrollment in 1998 (from 51 black students to 40 that year) was likely the result of a widely publicized court case brought by the families of black male students who sued for race discrimination after their sons were dismissed for alcohol violations while similarly situated white students were not. Be that as it may, the pre-Boarman admissions office was able to quickly recover, drawing 51 students to the Durham campus in the following year, 1999. This writer questions such an extravagant expenditure as $100 million for NCSSM under any circumstance; however, given the fact that high performing black students are no longer enrolled at NCSSM in the numbers which were once the case, the question that raises its head is this: Should we not put that $100 million into programs that support education of students State wide, or perhaps allocate at least half of that money to programs focusing on reducing the achievement gap facing black students and Hispanic students, or better yet, give an extra one million to each of the State's 100 counties now facing educational programming cuts and let the entire state benefit from a 100 million dollar addition to the education financing?

Almost immediately following the detailed discussion of the $100 million dollar expansion plan, the Board and members of the audience heard Chancellor Boarman describe how he plans to address a reduction in staff should such a step become necessary in order to cut the school's budget, falling in line with other state government entities facing similar and equally difficult decisions. Chancellor Boarman outlined that he had decided to be fair, reducing the personnel rolls by one administrative position, one faculty position, and one SPA position. Boarman further outlined this plan -- should such measures become necessary -- by indicating the dollar amounts saved using that scheme. Showing a slide with amounts, the audience saw this:

1 EPA administrative salary about $65,000
1 Faculty salary $74,000
1 SPA salary $30,000

Using these figures, we see that Chancellor Boarman has identified a savings of about $169,000 through these staff cuts, should staff cuts become necessary. Using the most recent BD-119 (Budget Document 119, the UNC-required reporting form which outlines salaries and raises for EPA employees), we see that there are 17 administrators listed under general administration and general instruction administration, and that those two budget lines account for a total of $1,700,999 and that comes to an average salary of over $100,000 for that group. There are three positions allocated to student services administration, costing an additional $189,429, and one plant facilities position at $76,443. This brings total EPA administrative costs, as outlined on the BD-119, to nearly 2 million dollars ($1,966,870) and an average administrator-salary of $93,660. It seems then, that Chancellor Boarman is under-estimating what he can save by reducing an administrative line position.

This discussion prompts a closer examination of personnel costs at NCSSM over the last several years. Part of that examination produced Table 2 attached to this discussion. While enrollment has grown by approximately 17% when we compare 2002-2003 enrollment to that in 2008-2009, we find that general administration costs have grown by a bit over 66%. General administration (budget code 1111-531111 for readers who wish to check these figures) includes Boarman and eleven other employees, up only two in number from 02-03 (10) to that in 08-09 (12), yet salary costs are up more than 66%. That would translate to a minimum of slightly over an 8.8% raise every year for every individual in that group. General administration costs for instructional administration (budget code 1211-531111) have increased by 37% with NO increase in the number of personnel in that line item when 02-03 is compared with 08-09.

There are some rather striking discoveries available to those who will study the BD-119 carefully and over time. Chancellor Boarman developed the habit of awarding administrators raises on January 1 of each year -- mid-year raises when the fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30-- and raises again on July 1. These have not been, for the most part, cost-of-living size raises of only 2 or 3 percent. One of the more shocking discoveries is Boarman's own $38,100 raise in January 2007. That figure represents a raise of over 19%, hardly a cost-of-living raise. Of course, the NCSSM Board of Trustees had to approve that raise. The then-chairman of the BOT, T. Brock Winslow was subsequently given a job by Boarman on June 25, 2007 at a salary of over $90,000, and on July 1, 2007 Winslow received a raise which took his salary to slightly more than $102,000. Mr. Winslow served as chairman of the NCSSM Board of Trustees for several years, was the owner-operator of a local company, and ran unsuccessfully for State political office around 2004 but had no previous institutional advancement/development experience when he took over the position of Vice Chancellor for Development in June 2007. Boarman's raise to himself, approved by the BOT, came just months before NCSSM became a constituent member of the UNC System and represents the last time Boarman could determine his own raises. Boarman, who heads a high school of about 650 students, receives a salary of $245,000 for 2008-2009, which is more than that of six of the chancellors of the constituent universities (besting them by as little as $7000 or as much as $28,000). Boarman, who joined NCSSM in June of 2000 at a salary of approximately $152,000, now costs the state $245,000 a year in salary alone. Having one's salary increase by a bit more than 63% in only 8 years is not at all bad.

While Boarman's hiring practices have come into question on many fronts, no decisions have been more questioned than his practice of hiring life-long friends who are retirees from the Maryland public school system, and/or who are former colleagues from Eleanor Roosevelt High School, the school Boarman managed prior to his retirement in Maryland and just prior to his joining NCSSM. Those same individuals, commonly known on campus by the derisive term Maryland Mafia, have enjoyed rapid increases in position and/or salary. The most outstanding recent incident along this line involves that of the elevation of Darlene Haught, recently appointed Vice Chancellor for Distance Education and External Programs (DEEP). Haught, who joined Boarman at NCSSM in June of 2001, almost immediately after her retirement from the Maryland system, was moved into the vice-chancellor position following the retirement of Sally Adkin, holder of the Ph.D. in educational measurement from UNC-G. The 2007-2008 BD-119 shows that Adkin, Vice Chancellor of External Programs and Director of Institutional Research, earned a little over $103,000 during her last year at NCSSM while Haught held the title of Dean of Distance Education under Adkin. That same BD-119 shows Haught, who holds a master's degree, being awarded a raise of slightly over 14% (from $86564 to $99052 by July of 2007). When Haught moved into the Adkin position, Haught's salary went up even more, to the current $112,226. Haught, the Maryland friend, is worth more than Adkin, the long-time NCSSM employee with a Ph.D. The additional complexity in the elevation of Haught is the hiring of Karen Dash, who is now charged with performing the educational measurement/institutional research component of Adkin's job. Dash was hired at $65,000, with the title Director of Institutional Research. Thus, it has cost the State over $177,000 to elevate Boarman friend Haught into Adkin's position.

A hire that has been equally disturbing was that of James Michael Reidy, life-long Boarman friend and now Vice Chancellor for Administration. Boarman created a new position for Reidy, bringing him onto the NCSSM payroll on March 10, 2003, immediately upon Reidy's retirement from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Baltimore. What was, and remains, particularly questionable about the Reidy hiring is the fact that Boarman rejected the opportunity even to interview a highly qualified black male, a Ph.D.-holding candidate who was then Director of Studies of Butler College at Princeton University and who was also an NCSSM alum. Although the Reidy hiring did not represent the first time that Gerald Boarman had over-looked a highly qualified black male in favor of a former Maryland colleague whom Boarman wished to bring to NCSSM, the Reidy hiring does represent an astonishing refusal even to interview such an applicant. Reidy's position was, according to Boarman's explanation to both Faculty and the BOT, to eliminate the need to replace the retiring Sandy Rothchild, who was the campus legal advisor. Boarman explained that the person whom he would bring into the newly created position, then called Assistant Executive Director, would have legal expertise. Rothchild's position was eliminated, extra monies found -- by failing to give raises to any of those in the administrative line -- and Reidy was hired at about $103,000, and now makes slightly over $128,000. This current salary represents a salary increase of over 24% in just a few months more than 5 years of service with the state. During those five years, Boarman hired a counselor-attorney, who now serves full time in the position of legal advisor to the chancellor. That lady, Natasha Nazareth-Phelps, makes over $90,000, having received raises totaling over $35,000 last year alone. With the return of a highly paid campus attorney, is Michael Reidy's position necessary? Does a high school of slightly over 650 students really need a Chancellor and an Assistant Chancellor for Administration, in addition to four other Vice Chancellors and four Deans?

With respect to Michael Reidy, it is worth noting that Boarman chose to make an exception to NC State Law requiring the parent/guardian to be a NC legal residence when the student files an application for admission to NCSSM. This writer served on the Admissions Selection Committee in the spring of 2003 and raised the issue of Michael Reidy's son's application with then-President Boarman. Applications are due to NCSSM by early January, months before Michael Reidy was hired at NCSSM, and even before his retirement date in Maryland. President Boarman indicated that the Reidy son "is a great kid" and "he will get in." The explanation: "I asked the Board of Trustees to change the state law on that requirement." Needless to say, Reidy's son was admitted, graduated, and received the tuition waiver to attend NC State. So, not only did Michael Reidy benefit from a position created just for him, he benefited from what is essentially a $40,000-plus prep-school level education for his son, then received the additional benefit of free tuition to NC State. What is even more disconcerting about this special dispensation awarded the Reidy son is the fact that in 2003-2004, black student enrollment reached only 30, down from the low of 40 in the pre-Boarman years, down from the average of 55 mentioned earlier, and, worse yet, way below the 70 enrolled in 1993. Had the Boarman Administration shown nearly as much determination to develop a process which would recruit high performing black students in an efficient and effective manner as it has shown in providing employment for former Maryland colleagues, NCSSM would today be enrolling well over 50 outstanding black students per year. Those of us who have been involved in education for many years know that those students exist. In fact, all Boarman would have to do is to reinstate the admissions processes used by previous NCSSM leaders.

While there are other examples of hirings that raise questions vis a vis the pattern of avoiding hiring minority candidates as well as the Boarman habit of hiring friends and then providing exceptional raises to those friends, it needs to be said that the individuals who make up the so-called Maryland Mafia are not necessarily bad people. This is not an attack on those individuals, nor is it necessarily an attack on their credentials per se; this is, however, an attack on the financial burden the practice has placed on the NCSSM budget and on the very apparent reluctance to hire minorities, including those with exceptional qualifications, in high-level positions with this current administration.

With this financial discussion as backdrop, this writer is given to ask this question: If NCSSM finds it necessary to cut personnel costs, is it not reasonable to suggest that Chancellor Boarman reduce salaries in the administrative lines -- even perhaps eliminating some positions -- before cutting instructional faculty and certainly before cutting SPA personnel, the very lowest paid people on campus? Perhaps Gerald Boarman would even consider giving back even half of that recent $38,100 raise which Mr. Winslow approved just prior to stepping down as Chairman of the NCSSM BOT? Perhaps NCSSM really does not need both a director and an assistant director of campus security, and could manage with only the SPA employee who serves as assistant director of security. After all, NCSSM now has two Durham policemen on duty on campus full time. Perhaps the school should return to the semester calendar, saving the costs of three administrative start-ups, three grade-mailings, etc. per year as opposed to two -- with, of course, the added advantage of operating on a calendar which meshes not only with the UNC System and the Community College System but also with every public school system in NC, allowing for easier delivery of distance learning offerings. In short, there is a myriad of options through which savings can be made if the State budget requires greater economy on the part of NCSSM. Reducing faculty, and thereby reducing service to students, should be a last-option. Cutting SPA positions is not a viable option until every ounce of financial fat is removed from the administrative line items.

Post 25

Monday, June 29, 2009 - 9:22amSanction this postReply

Post 26

Friday, August 28, 2009 - 2:36pmSanction this postReply
I wanted to share this e-mail in fairness to my critics:

I recently read your article "Advice for Those Considering NCSSM" on the Rebirth of Reason website and felt like I should reply. I am two years older then the intended audience, having graduated NCSSM this past June. While I agree with many of the points presented in this article I feel like it may not be the most objective approach to deciding whether someone should attend NCSSM.

I actually found the article when I was Googling information about the NCSSM suicide rate, which a friend had said was the highest for any highschool in the country (which I can believe, but have yet to verify,) so I can definitely agree that NCSSM provides an emotionally rigorous and trying atmosphere. That being said, despite the environment, I am glad I attended because I feel that NCSSM, as a collection of above average students, provides a unique social opportunity that many students will not get until college - that is, to be surrounded by students as academically motivated and gifted as themselves, not to mention some of the best teachers in the state - most likely better than most community college professors.

I understand your point about man's ultimate goal is happiness, but I guess what I felt was mssing from the article was why NCSSM might impede this relative to a normal highschool or the alternatives you presented, which I don't think really compare. (The Ayn Rand scholarship, I might add, is open to NCSSM students - I considered entering but in all honesty, I did not find The fountainhead to be as revolutionary as you might of, but I'm considering rereading it now...)

Recently, NCSSM has come under alot of scrutiny in the context of the economic recession. It is true that it costs about 3x as much per year to educate a student in NCSSM as opposed the the "general population", but I think that this approach towards public education is much better than the leveling effect that occurs in many public highschools. This trend towards a more segmented public education system delivers the most benefits to those who demand, and take advantage of them most. I think it makes sense to seperate those who are hoping to pursue a career as a mechanic from those who are hoping to pursue a career in mechanical engineering (myself included).

While there were many times at NCSSM that I took issue with the school, I hope this article serves more to encourage reform, on the school's side rather than to dissuade students from attending. I think there is a danger in using the term objectivism too often when presenting a somewhat biased argument. Personally, I am glad that I chose to attend NCSSM, and while we used to always bitch and moan about the stressful environment that NCSSM created, while we were there, very few people I know there regret it.

So, this email turned out a bit longer than I'd planned, but it is summer, and I felt compelled to respond.

Thank you,
[name omitted for privacy]

P.S. The stupid einstein memorial memento is still in the library, I was wondering why they'd decorate with such a tacky nick-nack, now I know. The point about the time-wasting meetings resonated tremendously with me, but then again, NCSSM did save me time from not having to commute/not having a class every day.

Post 27

Monday, August 2, 2010 - 12:53amSanction this postReply
As a rising sophomore I found NCSSM to be a tantalizing option in comparison to the current IB program with which I am involved. This article has removed any doubts I've had about NCSSM. If I still year even to apply after such an enthralling read, this must be more than a thrust from the parentals.

What almost all IB related articles fail to tell you is that there are no options.
"You will take these classes. You will take them in the proper order. You will not appeal."
In my school the counselors refer to the IB blocking as "The Master Plan." There are no deviations from the Master Plan.
Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. (If I may steal a line from the Borg.)

Honestly, the ability to explore Sciences simply because they interest me, paired with the opportunity for research that is completely nonexistent in my district, is what draws me to this school.
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on those topics.

Post 28

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 2:19amSanction this postReply
Watch my videos "Dual Enrollment versus NCSSM" and "Slash $24,000 and Two Years from College at NCSSM" for subsequent discussions of the benefits and detriments of the school.

You can also consider a home school option with your own curriculum built from tools at Pearson Higher Education eLearning.

What you absolutely want to bear in mind is tangible effort versus tangible reward. You can easily burn two years of effort in any "advanced" high school program and have absolutely nothing to show for it. This happens when you decide not to take the relevant placement tests (IB or AP) and thus earn no college credit. At least dual enrollment classes allow you to earn guaranteed college credit with a passing grade (C or better).

My main beefs with NCSSM versus other programs involve the "no value added" baggage of community service, "holistic" experiences, etc. So what matters most? Simple:

Credits on college transcripts leading to a degree useful in pursuing the desired career that can at least break even financially!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can name numerous NCSSM classmates who have struggled financially and academically their whole adult lives because they failed or refused to make this distinction. One from the Class of 1985 recently got himself and his wife and four kids evicted from a rental trailer due to cash flow problems. He waited until far too late in life to pursue a medical degree and now everyone suffers for it. Other classmates failed to complete college degrees in part because they failed to earn college credit at NCSSM.

I place much of the blame for these failures onto the shoulders of the NCSSM administrators. They have their own agendas that serve themselves but not their students. If you want total flexibility, give home schooling a look. Visit the North Carolina Homeschooling Support Network to learn more. Understand that you will not get much more flexibility at NCSSM than you will in IB. The former requires courses in physical education, humanities, and other non-science and non-mathematical subjects as well as many hours per year of dormitory housekeeping, community service, work service, mandatory meetings, etc.

Make a fully informed decision!

Feel free to contact me privately via the e-mail address listed in my profile on this site if you want a more tailored consultation.

P.S. Regarding "parentals," I know one graduate of the Class of 1987 who took such a long and meandering path after NCSSM that her parents refused to allow her younger sibling to apply to NCSSM! I have noticed "NCSSM Burnout" in other classmates as well. Be careful!

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 8/03, 9:14am)

Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 29

Saturday, August 14, 2010 - 9:58amSanction this postReply
"Further thoughts on the higher education bubble"

Right now, people are still borrowing heavily to pay the steadily increasing tuitions levied by higher education. But that borrowing is based on the expectation that students will earn enough to pay off their loans with a portion of the extra income their educations generate. Once people doubt that, the bubble will burst.

So my advice to students faced with choosing colleges (and graduate schools, and law schools) this coming year is simple: Don't go to colleges or schools that will require you to borrow a lot of money to attend. There's a good chance you'll find yourself deep in debt to no purpose. And maybe you should rethink college entirely.

Many people with college educations are already jumping the tracks to become skilled manual laborers: plumbers, electricians, and the like. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that seven of the ten fastest-growing jobs in the next decade will be based on on-the-job training rather than higher education. (And they'll be hands-on jobs hard to outsource to foreigners). If this is right, a bursting of the bubble is growing likelier.

Post 30

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 - 4:54amSanction this postReply
"The End of the Bricks and Mortar Era" (or this direct link) warrants posting here.

I still contend the $100 million "bricks and mortar" expansion of NCSSM constitutes a huge financial blunder.

This Uncyplopedia entry about NCSSM made me laugh!

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 8/18, 5:51am)

Post 31

Thursday, August 19, 2010 - 5:46amSanction this postReply
NCSSM is getting a new chancellor, Todd Roberts is coming home to Durham after four successful years in Ann Arbor.
and here

When Todd Roberts was an English major in college, he thought he'd end up going to law school or into advertising. But a few summers of teaching golf to children convinced him he belonged in the classroom.

Obviously, he is eminently suited to head a school for talented science and mathematics students.

Later edit -- Luke according to The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator by Patrick N. Allitt, one of the Lies in education is that you get what you pay for.  In fact, "there is almost no correlation between money spent and education achieved."

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 8/19, 2:10pm)

Post 32

Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 4:25amSanction this postReply
This article, "Goodbye, son; hello the rest of your life," offers a touching view from the mother of a new NCSSM student.

Post 33

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 12:33pmSanction this postReply
There is something telling about this article headline from nine months ago:

NCSSM faculty say no to business

Faculty at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics signaled Tuesday afternoon that they would not welcome a new chancellor who came from the business world.

That much was simple to determine, with two faculty members voicing strong opposition to and no one endorsing the notion of a business executive taking the helm of the institution. By contrast, those at a similar forum held on Saturday -- this time for parents of Science and Math students -- showed a willingness to embrace someone with a business background.

But pinning down exactly what qualities or background the school's fourth chancellor should have and determining exactly how to ascertain a candidate's suitability proved to be a bit more difficult.

The Rate My Teachers listings for NCSSM are interesting, too.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 12/13, 12:44pm)

Post 34

Thursday, December 30, 2010 - 11:38amSanction this postReply
Earn $42 per Hour Skipping Precalculus at NCSSM

Many courses in higher mathematics and science depend upon mastery of fundamentals of advanced algebra and trigonometry. Precalculus represents the standard course that conveys and solidifies these fundamentals. Typical high school programs teach this course in both a block format and a year-long format. The same applies at the college level, where students can take the course either as a single semester of four credit hours or as two semesters of three credit hours each.

Students in non-traditional schooling environments such as a homeschool can teach themselves this subject in a variety of ways. Regardless of how they learn it, they must ultimately demonstrate their mastery of the subject before colleges will allow them to take calculus. Colleges frequently have their own in-house placement testing system to verify this mastery. In addition to these in-house tests, numerous standardized placement systems such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) include subject tests for precalculus.

Students admitted to the prestigious North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) have a financial motive to complete precalculus prior to entry into NCSSM. Thanks to an Articulation Agreement (AA) between NCSSM and several schools in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system such as North Carolina State University (NCSU), students at NCSSM who earn a grade of B or higher in courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus BC can earn college credit for those courses. But this leaves students who want to avoid "leaving money on the table" in a quandary. While NCSSM requires completion of precalculus for graduation, ambitious students who want to take full advantage of the many advanced courses at NCSSM will find they cannot do so without precalculus. They can become mired in precalculus their junior year and miss the opportunity to pick the richer fruit hanging on the higher branches of the NCSSM tree of knowledge. If they had the misfortune not to complete precalculus prior to entry into NCSSM -- and too many NCSSM students face this misfortune -- they leave both money and knowledge untapped during their stay at NCSSM.

The North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) offers the chance to take precalculus over the summer as well as during the regular school year. Newly admitted NCSSM students and their alternates who want to complete this prerequisite course so as to take advantage of the higher NCSSM opportunities should do so if at all possible. However, students should understand that bureacracies such as NCVPS will not always cooperate with their wishes. Should they find it impossible to complete precalculus in this way, they should look at alternatives that can accomplish the same goal of proving mastery of the subject for a small cost.

The widely used MathXL tool has earned a place at many colleges and universities. With a hundred of so mathematics textbooks available electronically in conjunction with video lectures, animations, interactive problems, and sample tests, the tool affords the student almost a steal at $44 for one year or $75 for two years of access. Students who focus and apply themselves can literally learn a year of precalculus in a matter of months with this tool. In tandem with the CLEP Precalculus Test ($97) or SAT Subject Test for Math Level 2 ($31), students who perform well on these tests can assure qualification for a college level course in calculus. (Presumably NCSSM would accept these also, but I have not verified this.) In any case, NCSSM also has its own placement tests, but I encourage students who can afford these options to take them. Let me explain why using NCSU as an example.

A student who completes precalculus prior to NCSSM entry can take the equivalent of these NCSU courses at NCSSM for these numbers of semester hours of college credit with a grade of B or higher:

ST 370 Statistics (3 hours credit)
MA 141 Calculus I (4 hours credit)
MA 241 Calculus II (4 hours credit)
MA 242 Calculus III (4 hours credit)
TOTAL 15 hours credit

This is the equivalent of a full semester of college. According to the NCSU Tuition page, that costs $9,214. How can a new NCSSM student leverage this knowledge literally to "spin gold from flax"? Put simply: Run the numbers! For example, a student who follows the MathXL path of self-study can work the 443 precalculus problems in Chapter 1 of the textbook Hillsborough CC: Thomas' Calculus, 11e with Precalculus. Assuming an average of one half hour per problem, this works to roughly 221 hours of total work. Assuming a 60 calendar day time frame spent over the summer, this works to less than four hours per day. Accounting for the cost of a year of MathXL and a single CLEP examination, and the fact that time spent at NCSSM must be spent regardless of courses taken, the net benefit of this undertaking works to roughly $42 per hour. Good luck finding any summer job with that kind of pay!

Critics of my analysis will claim that I made an unfair calculation. After all, students can still take precalculus at NCSSM their junior year and then take the equivalent of the first three courses I listed their senior year. I rebut that a wider analysis (outside the scope of a Facebook note) will observe other courses that also require precalculus. These additional courses would also remain out of reach of students due to the remaining onerous workload of humanities, etc. that NCSSM students face. These "carbon monoxide" courses displace the "oxygen" of science and mathematics opportunities from the NCSSM "atmosphere." So I remain loyal to the idea that the NCSSM students best serve themselves by completing precalculus by hook or by crook prior to NCSSM entry.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 12/31, 8:02am)

Post 35

Monday, January 10, 2011 - 10:11amSanction this postReply
In the article I mentioned the ""clever-dick smart-ass" so I thought it warranted an illustration of its genealogy.
Dick Tracy
Clever Dick
Smart Ass
Smart Ass
Clever Dick Smart Ass
Clever Dick Smart Ass

Post 36

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 - 8:41amSanction this postReply
I encourage all NCSSM candidates to read How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport to get ahead of the power curve on preparing for the curriculum onslaught the school brings.

Post 37

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 5:11amSanction this postReply
See my blog entry "Memories of the Father of Dan Brown" for an intense story about AP Calculus BC at NCSSM.

(Edited by Luke Setzer on 1/21, 7:23am)

Post 38

Monday, May 16, 2011 - 5:37amSanction this postReply

Post 39

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 4:13amSanction this postReply
The Web site Colleges That Change Lives is worth browsing.

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