Improving education (U.S.)

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Maduyn
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Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Maduyn » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:19 am UTC

How would you improve the education system in America?
I personally would do one of two things.
I would
A: Double wages for teachers (or increase by 1.5) and provide MASSIVE incentives for becoming a teacher.
B: Make becoming a teacher kind of like joining the army. You would get all your expenses paid for collage and post. and sign a contract that says after school a house/apartment will be bought for you and you will work at school X for 15 yrs

Anyway. Your thoughts?
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:27 am UTC

Do away with education degrees. Have people who want to teach learn the subject they are teaching. Without exceptions, all of my best HS teachers had degrees in the subject they were teaching, rather than just education degrees. I would rather learn physics from someone with a physics degree, rather than a degree in science education.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby jmorgan3 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:36 am UTC

Maduyn wrote:How would you improve the education system in America?
I personally would do one of two things.
I would
A: Double wages for teachers (or increase by 1.5) and provide MASSIVE incentives for becoming a teacher.
B: Make becoming a teacher kind of like joining the army. You would get all your expenses paid for collage and post. and sign a contract that says after school a house/apartment will be bought for you and you will work at school X for 15 yrs

Anyway. Your thoughts?

Increasing wages will have to be accompanied by an increase in standards for hiring, promotion, and raises, or you will just end up spending more money on bad teachers.

A 15 year contract is a terrible idea. Most people don't have careers that long nowadays, much less jobs. Even the Army only has 8-year contracts, with 4 years of active service.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Maduyn » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:43 am UTC

by jmorgan3 on Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:36 pm UTC

Maduyn wrote:How would you improve the education system in America?
I personally would do one of two things.
I would
A: Double wages for teachers (or increase by 1.5) and provide MASSIVE incentives for becoming a teacher.
B: Make becoming a teacher kind of like joining the army. You would get all your expenses paid for collage and post. and sign a contract that says after school a house/apartment will be bought for you and you will work at school X for 15 yrs

Anyway. Your thoughts?


Increasing wages will have to be accompanied by an increase in standards for hiring, promotion, and raises, or you will just end up spending more money on bad teachers.

A 15 year contract is a terrible idea. Most people don't have careers that long nowadays, much less jobs. Even the Army only has 8-year contracts, with 4 years of active service.


Well increasing wages will at first cause us to pay more for bad teachers but it will also in the future cause the job of teacher to become competitive therfore it will increase standards by itself.

As for my "enlistment" idea it could easily be modified to different contract lengths to tailor it to the situation.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby jayhsu » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:18 am UTC

I agree that the best way to recruit new teachers is to raise wages, to a competitive level. I assume we are talking about primary school and not higher education (colleges, &c.)

Perhaps it is important to define what we mean by improving education. American students are some of the worst at math, hard sciences, &c., but (and please correct me if I'm wrong) we're not shabby at creativity.

Perhaps more magnet schools: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuyvesant_High_School
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Indon » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:14 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:Do away with education degrees. Have people who want to teach learn the subject they are teaching. Without exceptions, all of my best HS teachers had degrees in the subject they were teaching, rather than just education degrees. I would rather learn physics from someone with a physics degree, rather than a degree in science education.


I only partially agree - instead, I would have education be like a minor attached to a standard degree. So, ideally, you would have physics taught by a Physicist who minored in Education.

But I personally think the biggest change we can do for our education is cultural. The more we as a people realize how awesome math and science (and all the other school subjects) are, the more our kids are going to pick up on that and learn about those subjects.

So, do your part for education and embrace the awesomeness that is academia in your everyday life.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby frezik » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:21 am UTC

The US education system needs to be completely gutted. The current system has its origins in the Prussian system (simply because it was started by German immigrants), which stressed conformity, allegiance, and rote memorization. This was expanded on by industrialists who were looking for workers that were essentially replaceable parts in a machine. Current school administrators continue this system simply because they don't know any better. A focus on standardized testing (as was done with No Child Left Behind) only serves to further the aspects of the system that ought to be going away.

A greater focus needs to be made on creative skills. Euclidean geometry should be taught by middle school, not just an optional high school course for the better students. Memorizing multiplication tables should be deemphasized in favor of teaching more complex math sooner (the kind where the teacher will allow you to use a calculator, because the important parts can't be done with a calculator, anyway). A basic level of computer programming should be taught (maybe use Logo for what it was originally designed). More time should be spent in the library, and the library should have at least a few books that are less than 20 years old. History should be about the effects of people and events, not memorizing dates. Nobody should leave high school without experimenting with supersaturated mixtures and watching it crystallize, or working out why a pendulum doesn't swing faster when you put a heavier weight at the end.

None of that will ever happen, because parents think it's important to be able to calculate restaurant tips in your head, programming is just for professional programmers, the library is a place to goof off, it's more important to know that Columbus discovered America in 1492 than to know that he didn't actually set foot on the American mainland, and a hands-on science course involves a bunch of chemicals that can be used in the making of crystal meth. This is all completely backwards, but that's in part because the parents are a product of the same broken system.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby TheStranger » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:01 am UTC

A major overhaul would need to be performed to truly reform the US education system (the full extent of this would vary based on school district).

First on the list would be some deep down audits of the school systems finances, probably followed by a general purge of the supporting bureaucracy. Hopefully this would free up a good portion of the funding needed to undertake the reforms.

Second would go into reviewing the teachers, with salary boosts for all but the worst. Profession entry standards would increase, but so would salaries. This would include creating classes at the college level allowing people interested in teaching to become teachers without a full teaching degree (call it a minor in teaching).

Third we hit the schools themselves with renovations and expansions, creating more modern facilities as well as more classroom space.

Curriculum wise I'd move to a year round schedule instead of the current one (creating breaks of a few weeks instead of months). I'd also scrap the "No Child Left Behind" act.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:17 pm UTC

Lo.

First some background: I am a final year intern psychologist in Educational Psychology, I work at a school clinic in Cape Town, South Africa.

In other words I haven't a CLUE what the no child left behind act is all about (and I don't feel like wikiing right now)

Anyway I agree with alot of what has been said but I think that one fundamental point has been missed: The US education system will always be a failure, for the simple reason that poor students receive an education that is inferior to those of wealthy students, by LAW.

Now please correct me if I'm wrong but it is my understanding that in the US if you live in a wealthy area then your schools receive more funding than those in a poor area. Is this true? Because if it is then you are screwed. In a system like that the only thing that can happen is for the gap between rich and poor to keep getting larger, because the poor are unable to compete for jobs and higher education. Furthermore it will always foster discontent among the majority of students, because they know that their education is not going to be as good as it could be, and because they will know that they will be at a disadvantage when it comes to university placement, job applications etc.

I saw an Oprah a while ago which superficially examined the trend of students from different schools having completely different levels of education, despite them doing the same subjects and having equal grades. In the one example I saw a young lady had the grades to get into med school (despite being from quite a poor area). But when she got to med school she discovered that her science education had actually been completely inferior compared to that of the other students. She then had to teach HERSELF 2 years of science while still trying to do med school.

Now some might say "well if she is meant to be there then she should just work hard and catch up." Problem is that med school is tough enough without social forces handicapping you.

My point is this: quality of education is highly relative. If the education you are receiving is less good than the next guy in the interview line then you will lose to them, even if you are equally talented, and just as hard working.

So my solution? Do everything you listed above, have higher standards for teachers' subject knowledge, make sure that they take education as a subject in addition to their method stubjects, increase pay and benefits, decrease the pupil/teacher ratio to 15/1 (which will mean about 20 kids per class), increase accesibility of vocational guidance so that students can work out what they want to do, how to get there and how to do it REALISTICALLY.

Then do the big thing: make sure that all government funded schools have identical resources and comparable facilities, and FORCE private schools to offer full scholarships to deserving poor kids on a "1 rich kid, 1 poor kid" basis.

Begin flaming.......now ;)
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Hammer » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:33 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Then do the big thing: make sure that all government funded schools have identical resources and comparable facilities, and FORCE private schools to offer full scholarships to deserving poor kids on a "1 rich kid, 1 poor kid" basis.

Begin flaming.......now ;)

* points to the Positive Discrimination thread *
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 12:49 pm UTC

/me runs off to see what the fuss is all about....
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Gunfingers » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:00 pm UTC

I'd say a privatized but state-funded and regulated education industry would be a good start. Not every school, necessarily, but all the ones that are currently state run at least. Just sell the schools to a private business and tell them they have to teach XYZ subjects to a certain degree of satisfaction and do whatever from there. Evening out funding based on number of students rather than location would be good, too. This would not only mean more funding for the inner-city schools, but also encourages schools to offer programs that make students want to attend.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:10 pm UTC

gah! Thread too long! Make Hulk mad!

Besides it looks likes Belial pretty much has things sown up over there.

My take on the whole thing is that while affirmative action is important it will not solve the basic problem: which is the inherent unfairness of the system.

My South African compatriate also makes a valid point about AA in SA: a tiny minority of Blacks, Coloureds and Indians are being helped into middle class but the vast majority of people (+70% of the country in fact) is still being left in poverty because the education system is still struggling to overcome the gigantic kick in the nuts it received from Apartheid :/

It worked like this: under apartheid Whites were given whatever education they wanted. "Coloureds", "Indians", Muslims", orientals etc received enough education to be in a skilled labour capacity (plumber, electrictian, bricklayer etc).

And then blacks were taught to read and write and count to 100...and that's it. They were also taught "South African History" which was mostly about how white people had come to save the dark continent, Jesus is your friend, and Communism is bad because it wants you to be able to fight for your rights.

The basic idea was to undereducate the majority of the population so that they would be UNABLE to do anything except brute, manual labour.

In addition to institutionalised racism this was accomplished by providing explicit striations in the education system, where the wealthy whites got better education than the poor blacks, and could thus outperform them.

Sound familiar? It should, because this is exactly what is happening in America, England, and probably alot of other countries.

ciao ;)
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby frezik » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:29 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:Lo.

First some background: I am a final year intern psychologist in Educational Psychology, I work at a school clinic in Cape Town, South Africa.

In other words I haven't a CLUE what the no child left behind act is all about (and I don't feel like wikiing right now)


To summarize it, kids are given standardized tests. Schools that consistently underperform on the tests are given less money. When Bush says he "championed a major education bill", it's this turd that he's talking about.

Anyway I agree with alot of what has been said but I think that one fundamental point has been missed: The US education system will always be a failure, for the simple reason that poor students receive an education that is inferior to those of wealthy students, by LAW.


Essentially correct. Schools are funded out of property taxes, so richer areas naturally have better-funded schools.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:39 pm UTC

Eish :( (South African expression meaning: "Aww man!")

Thank you for clearing that up. It's just as bad as I feared.

See in SA we have exactly the same thing, thanks to Apartheid. But we recognise that it's a problem and we are trying to fix it.

This really stinks :/
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby n4ry4 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:22 pm UTC

Start by giving all parents a choice where their kids go to school. So many public schools don't have to compete for students; their customers are built-in, so they get the funding no matter how bad the results are.

Wealthy parents already have a choice; they can move in to a different school district or send their kids to a private school.

Problem is (like many political problems) the lobbyists are too powerful to let real reform happen. The teachers' unions have too much government influence to help them protect their monopoly.

When the government enacts new "standards" (such as in NCLB) the standards get set to the lowest common denominator and end up being worthless.

I think the the best first step in the right direction is to adopt a policy of "Educate the kid, or let the parents find someone else who will".

This probably not a be-all end-all solution though. Even if every school had the right incentives to perform as well as possible, there is the other challenge of overcoming inequality in the quality of parenting...

Wealthy parnets tend to read to their kids more often and interact with their kids in a way that fosters learning, so by the time the kids get to school age, kids from wealthy households are, on average, more prepared for success than others. I read an article a while back citing a study on how educated professional parents interact with their kids compared to middle-class and poor parents. There were some interesting differences...

Child psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley have tested the effect of class on the differences in how parents interact with their young children. After observing several dozen families with toddlers over the course of a couple of years, they were able to document dramatic differences in the intensity and nature of the verbal stimulation the kids were getting: Professional parents directed an average of 487 "utterances" per hour toward their children, as compared to 301 for workingclass parents and only 176 for welfare parents. The quality of those utterances was also very different: Among professional parents, the ratio of encouraging to discouraging utterances was six to one; for working-class parents, the ratio slipped to two to one; and welfare parents made two discouraging utterances for every encouraging one. The consequences were predictable: By the time the children in the study were around three years old, the ones from professional families had average vocabularies of 1,116 words; the working-class ones averaged 749; the welfare kids, 525.

Money isn't the issue here, since talking to your kids is free. What does matter is the parents' inclination to nurture their child's development and the resulting verbal practice that the child gets. Kids from well-off homes get more chances to interact verbally, and that practice is an essential ingredient of developing a large vocabulary.

Once kids reach school age, the growing influence of peer groups reinforces the early patterns established at home...


I think there is quite a big "tragedy of the masses" problem where what's best for any individual student is worse for education as a whole. Students tend to perform close to their peer groups. All else equal, a student placed in a classroom full of kids who are behind grade level and have more discipline problems than the average classroom will very likely not perform as well as the same student placed in a classroom full of college-bound kids.

So, basically, if you want to do what's best for your kid (which good parents usually do), then you'll want to put the child with whatever group of kids are most likely to succeed in the future. This perpetuates the inequality.

Obviously, wealthy parents have the resources to make this happen. Even if there were successful integration programs for kids from diverse backgrounds to attend the same school, as soon as their school begins accepting more poor kids, they school is going to have to spend more resources addressing the needs of kids who are behind academically. It's hard to teach an advanced kid who is getting bored with algebra when other kids in his class are struggling with fractions because they didn't have the same opportunities at an earlier age.

So wealthy parents will keep trying to put their kid with wealthy peer-groups because it will assure the best chance of success.

How do you make sure all kids get similar quality of parenting and also encourage educated parents to put their kid in the same classroom as kids from less-educated family backgrounds?

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:57 pm UTC

All valid points, and all very interesting.

The bit that first made me chuckle, and then just pissed the hell out of me was the:
"this is not a money issue, since talking to your kids is free."

Ok, now I know that this isn't something you said, N4RY4, it's from whatever idiot wrote that piece you quoted so the following diatribe is NOT directed at you.

What utter bullshit!! Of course poverty plays a factor there! If you are a wealthy person then you are going to get more time off than a working class person, and because you have greater access to various kinds of support you are likely to be in a better psychological space and have more emotional energy and time to devote to your kids.

You also won't have the pressure of living in a society that tells you that if you sweep streets, mine coal, or work as a janitor then you are somehow less of a worthwhile person than a CEO.

Of course we can't let the parents off entirely. I'm sure there are some who are given opportunities for their kids and don't take them due to suspicion, laziness or whatever.

My point is just that poverty, even relative poverty, puts huge strain on people and makes it alot more difficult for them to do all the things they, as parents, should do.

Anyway South Africa is moving towards an inclusive education system so I totally hear what you are saying with regards to trying to accomodating both "high", "middle" and "low" performing kids in the same class.

The thing is....it can be done, it really can, even in the same classroom. The idea with inclusive education is lessons are structured in such a way that everyone covers the necessary topics, and those learners with greater ability are encouraged to keep going and do added "extension tasks" while the teacher gives more attention to those learners who need to catch up. It also involves having an "individualised learning plan" for EVERY learner in the class. The idea is that ALL children have strengths and weaknesses of some kind, and so the appropriate approach is different from every learner. The individual learning plan will contain homework activities, support programs and whatever other support that particular learner needs to achieve their full potential, no matter what it is. It also has the added benefit of communicating to the kids that all of them are in the same boat, some of them will achieve higher than others, some of them may fail, but that doesn't change the fact that they are differnet, and all learning together.

It really is a fantastic model of education, and I can hear you already asking the obvious question: why isn't everybody doing this??!!!111

It's quite simple really: workload. I mean think about it. Teachers are already hideously overworked and underpaid, now we expect them to create individualised plans for EVERY LEARNER in their class? It's impossible.

Unless of course you drop the number of kids per class to about 20, and the pupil/teacher ration to about 15/1. Then it becomes possible, and it could solve soooo many of society's problems.

So now all we have to do is double the number of teachers, and then train them all in this new way of thinking....

Eish :(
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby protocoach » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:07 pm UTC

n4ry4 wrote:Start by giving all parents a choice where their kids go to school. So many public schools don't have to compete for students; their customers are built-in, so they get the funding no matter how bad the results are.

Wealthy parents already have a choice; they can move in to a different school district or send their kids to a private school.

Problem is (like many political problems) the lobbyists are too powerful to let real reform happen. The teachers' unions have too much government influence to help them protect their monopoly.

The problem with the voucher idea is that mandatory school areas aren't the only problem. Vouchers will work some of the time, but what about the families without cars, who can't afford to send their kids across town to the better school? You're going to inevitably end up with a small core of people who are unable or unwilling to send their kids across a city to get to a better school, and those kids are going to end up even more disserviced than if the program had never been instituted.

Personally, my list of "Things We Need to Do to Improve Education" would go something like:
-Increase teacher salary
-Move to year-round schooling
-Deemphasize standardized tests
-Increase funds to inner city schools
-Mandate decreased class sizes
-Reinstitute art and music classes
-Reinstitute vocational education as a viable alternative to college

Coming from a private Catholic school background, what really helped me the most was the vastly improved teacher-to-student ratio. I never had a non-gym class with more than 20 people in it, in a HS of 1200. In classes that I struggled in, (Damn youse, chemistry! Damn youse all to hell!) I got one-on-one help from the teacher and made it through alright. In classes where I did well, the small classes made it possible for us to fly through the material and cover extra stuff, as well as embedding the material in my brain, and actually making it interesting.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:21 pm UTC

The other problem with the voucher idea is that it is EXACTLY the same as what is happening now, it just looks different on paper.

I mean think about it. If you are a school that is known for being good then you will be inundated with applications and will be able to pick and choose students. Naturally you will take all of the top students, which will lead to good results, more funds for your school, a good reputation and so the cycle continues.

At the other end of the scale is a school that isn't doing very well. It will get stuck with all the underperforming students, its results will be bad, so it will get less funds, which will mean it will have a bad reputation and so the cycle continues again.

Unless I've missed something the whole voucher idea is EXACTLY the same as the current system, it just looks different at first glance.

What say you?
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby n4ry4 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:37 pm UTC

The picking-and-choosing-good-students phenomenon is a valid problem in school choice programs.

The requirement for many charter schools is that they must accept all students who apply, up to the legal capacity of the school.

If a school wants to be eligible to accept more students (and get public funding) under a school choice program, then that school must accept all students who apply before the application deadline, and if the number of applications exceeds the school's limit, hold a public lottery. Maybe give preference to applicants who have siblings who currently attend the school so families can stay together, but otherwise prohibit discrimination through a fair and transparent application process.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby e946 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:39 pm UTC

TheStranger wrote:Curriculum wise I'd move to a year round schedule instead of the current one (creating breaks of a few weeks instead of months).


I disagree with this strongly, mainly because of how much I loved the summer. Children need strong educations, yes, but they also need a chance to just be children, and several of those "few weeks off" are going to be during times where it's too cold to do anything useful with that time off. If you need time to review what was taught the year before, why not start school a week earlier? That way children still get the warmest months of the year all to themselves and teachers don't have to cut into normal class time to review.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby mrandrewv » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:49 pm UTC

Hmmm....intriguing.

I like the public lottery idea, but I still see schools faking application forms so that they have some measure of control, or "turn up the volume" syndrome where underperforming children are secretly "encouraged" to drop out so that the school's grades are not affected.

We still havne't solved the transport problem though...
It's all very interesting...

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby protocoach » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:03 pm UTC

e946 wrote:
TheStranger wrote:Curriculum wise I'd move to a year round schedule instead of the current one (creating breaks of a few weeks instead of months).


I disagree with this strongly, mainly because of how much I loved the summer. Children need strong educations, yes, but they also need a chance to just be children, and several of those "few weeks off" are going to be during times where it's too cold to do anything useful with that time off. If you need time to review what was taught the year before, why not start school a week earlier? That way children still get the warmest months of the year all to themselves and teachers don't have to cut into normal class time to review.

Because the reviews take longer than a week. Thinking back to my grade school years, we usually spent roughly the first three weeks reviewing, then we moved into new subjects. With year round schooling, that time goes from being wasted space to being useful time. And while I loved the summer vacation as well, it's become obsolete. Kids aren't needed to help with the harvest anymore. We're falling behind other nations that run year-round.

As for it being too cold to do anything useful...snowboarding, skiing, snowtubing, snowball fights, snow forts...I don't think kids are going to run out of things to do during the cold times.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby jayhsu » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:42 pm UTC

Many Asian countries also send their kids for summer school and after-school tutoring. It is almost certainly correlated with their higher aptitudes for math and sciences. Perhaps not so much on creativity though.

So maybe a better question is this: Does the U.S. want to focus more on creativity or analytical skills? It seems unreasonable to be great in both, and as the U.S. currently fails at math and science, why not push education reform towards creating a more creative populace?

Although everyone should take a mandatory course in Logic, I personally believe.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby protocoach » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:55 pm UTC

jayhsu wrote:Many Asian countries also send their kids for summer school and after-school tutoring. It is almost certainly correlated with their higher aptitudes for math and sciences. Perhaps not so much on creativity though.

So maybe a better question is this: Does the U.S. want to focus more on creativity or analytical skills? It seems unreasonable to be great in both, and as the U.S. currently fails at math and science, why not push education reform towards creating a more creative populace?

Although everyone should take a mandatory course in Logic, I personally believe.

What evidence is there that Asian's are behind us in creativity? If anything, I'd say they're ahead of us. Look at where most of the tech advances in the world is coming from: southeast Asia.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:33 pm UTC

mrandrewv wrote:What utter bullshit!! Of course poverty plays a factor there! If you are a wealthy person then you are going to get more time off than a working class person, and because you have greater access to various kinds of support you are likely to be in a better psychological space and have more emotional energy and time to devote to your kids.


That actually isnt true

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby jayhsu » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:45 pm UTC

protocoach wrote:
jayhsu wrote:Many Asian countries also send their kids for summer school and after-school tutoring. It is almost certainly correlated with their higher aptitudes for math and sciences. Perhaps not so much on creativity though.

So maybe a better question is this: Does the U.S. want to focus more on creativity or analytical skills? It seems unreasonable to be great in both, and as the U.S. currently fails at math and science, why not push education reform towards creating a more creative populace?

Although everyone should take a mandatory course in Logic, I personally believe.

What evidence is there that Asian's are behind us in creativity? If anything, I'd say they're ahead of us. Look at where most of the tech advances in the world is coming from: southeast Asia.


While creativity is a fairly subjective measure, I'm not sure I agree with you: for one thing, tech advances are not necessarily a product of creativity, and could be a result of better application of science on existing objects.

Regardless, I don't actually know who is more creative (again, it's a subjective measure). There is something to be said about the power of collective creativity, but also the risk of falling into 'groupthink'.

Some articles for the collective perusal:
http://keithsawyer.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/asia-versus-the-united-states/ (Yes, just a blog, but some more articles within)
http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/directory/jag97/downloads/Individualism_collectivism_OBHDP.pdf (Cornell and Berkley study)

From my own personal experiences, having taken some organizational studies classes in college, I've found that individuals can sometimes be smarter than the group, but sometimes the group will also synergize and become more than the sum of it's parts. So it might be hard to say.

In any case, there are a lot more Asian students than Americans, so maybe we want to play it by statistics. But unlike in America, college entrance exams in Asian countries are a major deal, and creativity is not the most highly placed ideal.
-Jay

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby darth.malie » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:04 pm UTC

I actually wrote a term paper on this for my AP English class. It's 22 double-spaced pages, so I won't post the whole thing. Highlights:

Proposition for American Secondary Educational Reform: A Tracking-Based Model

In its simplest form, the purpose of secondary education is to prepare young adults for their future careers, and as such there is no possible way that a one-size-fits-all approach to public education could be effective. The American school system, however, remains intent on doing just that, upholding equality as the supreme goal, rather than effectiveness. If all students are to exit secondary school with the necessary skills to excel in the workforce, the armed forces, college or university; they must be given different opportunities to excel. Requiring every student to learn the same things, when the reality of the job market lies in specialization, is absurd. Other nations have attempted to solve this problem through academic tracking, the practice of assigning students to different schools or classes based on their academic or other ability, and have met with marginal success. However, in every school system there are effective and ineffective practices. If the ineffective practices were to be removed from the American school system, and the effective practices from other nations’ school systems introduced into the American system, there is an excellent chance that American schools would increase in efficiency, productivity, and student achievement.

As it stands, the American school system could definitely use some improvement. Rigor is there for those who seek it, but relevance, in the cases of those who do not intend to pursue a career in academia, is often in short supply. Secondary school is divided into two main programs, special education and general education, and vocational and advanced programs, when they exist, fall under the category of general education. The special education program, covered in detail below, is costly, cumbersome and difficult to get into (United States Department of Education 6-8), but effective (National Council on Disability 34). There are too few gifted and talented or advanced programs, and the number is not expected to rise; as the recent No Child Left Behind act does not cater well to such programs (No Child Left Behind 1826-1826). Vocational education is far from commonplace, and receives second billing to such programs as special education. The average dropout rate is 9% (High School Dropout Rates 1). The average American school day is 6.5 hours long (Fulingi and Stevenson 5) and broken into “hours”, each hour in a different class, in a different classroom, taught by a different teacher. Transportation by bus is provided to and from school each day. School is not year-round: classes break for summer vacation, generally encompassing the months of June, July and August, and there are other, shorter breaks throughout the year.
Attending school is mandatory up to age 16. If a student drops out, the education system will offer no form of help or support whatsoever until after the student’s class has graduated, at which time the student can take a test, the passing of which will earn the student a GED, or general education diploma, which is the basic equivalent of a high school diploma. However, there is an extremely negative stigma attached to dropping out of high school, and some employers will refuse to hire a dropout. As such, a great effort is made to ensure that students remain in school, although in some cases students have learned all that could be relevant to their future in less than four years.

The No Child Left Behind act of 2001 is undoubtedly the most well-known and controversial recent government initiative toward education. The purpose of the act is to improve America’s academic achievement and school system, through ensuring that each American school makes “Adequate Yearly Progress”, or AYP (No Child Left Behind 1446). AYP is defined by each individual state, a strategy that is employed throughout NCLB. The guidelines for setting AYP standards include statements that standards must be uniform across all schools in the state, effectively and in a statistically relevant way reflect the progress made by the school’s students, primarily using a standardized test similarly designed by the state (No Child Left Behind 1446-1447).
If a school fails to make adequate yearly progress, the students of the school are given the option of transfer to another school in the district, supplemental methods (i.e. tutors) are made available to remaining students, and, ultimately, convert the school into a public charter and replace all staff, up to and including the administration (No Child Left Behind 1484). Special Education is provided for under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, described below. Plans to conduct “scientifically based research” concerning the education of Gifted and Talented students are mentioned. However, the only other mention of Gifted and Talented education is a grant to existing G&T programs, with no mention of encouraging the implementation of new programs (No Child Left Behind 1826-1829). Advanced Placement tests are to be “encouraged”, and grants will be made available to those of marginal income who cannot afford the test fee (No Child Left Behind 1606-1610).
Many teachers and administrators feel that there is too much emphasis placed on testing and test scores in NCLB (National Council on Disability 18). In some cases, forcing teachers to teach to the test really does hamper the quality of education that the students will receive, by forcing curricula and methods other than the teacher’s own on the teacher, and the teacher may very well resent this, and as a result under-perform. Conversely, if the teacher in question does not have effective methods or curricula to begin with, a structured set of guidelines could potentially improve the classroom experience. However, placing too great of an emphasis on standardized tests destroys the atmosphere of the school as a cohesive place of learning. While scores are important and relevant in a majority of cases, there are many instances in which a student’s abilities cannot be measured by a test, and it is unreasonable to expect an accurate picture of any population from standardized test scores.

The importance of Academia in the school system is, in the cases of those not intending to pursue an academic career, overstressed. In order for the American school system to reach it’s full potential, it must be realized that blue-collar workers are the backbone of society, and that practical instruction would be much more beneficial to those who will eventually occupy such a career than abstract ideas and reasoning ever could. For students that face the reality of making a living with their hands and providing for themselves and their future families, learning how to balance a checkbook, properly clean a sink, write a resume or be an informed voter is much more relevant and useful to them than learning how to find the inverse of 13X2, prepare a solution of .25 molar HCl, write a literary analysis or summarize the revolutionary war could ever be. Despite this, the American curriculum continues to require that every student pass a minimum amount of Math, Science, English and Social Studies that some of the students will never use again.
However, academia is of the utmost importance for those intending to pursue a white-collar career or attend college or university for any length of time. In the case of such students, no other course of study will suffice. Some allowances can be made, such as an intended English Literature major taking less math than an intended Chemistry major, but for the most part academia cannot be compromised. As such, the “one size fits all” high school can, will and must fall by the wayside. There is a basic level of education that everyone requires to be an informed citizen and responsible human being; this cannot be disputed. However, if the content of each student’s education beyond that point was approached with the idea that high school should prepare students for their future in mind, the secondary educational process would be less of a burden, emotionally and financially, on everyone involved.
Like academia, renaissance education, that is to say, art and music instruction in addition to core curricular classes, is not necessary in all cases. Those with skill in such areas and/or who enjoy such activities should be encouraged to pursue them, no matter whether or not the student has any chance of a career in that subject. Likewise, students intending to go on to college or university should be encouraged to take courses of a varied nature, as most institutions of higher education look for the well-rounded individual. However, students who will go into a blue-collar career, while they should by no means be prevented or discouraged from taking classes in the arts, should not be required to either. To many, the arts are viewed as having no practical value. Although this is an unfortunate frame of mind, it is not the school’s place to force opinions on people, and it would not serve anyone in any way to force those who do not wish to to take a class in the arts.
In the right circumstances, technical or vocational education can be immensely valuable, preparing students for future jobs and careers and allowing them to move into the workplace faster. For students pursuing blue-collar jobs or any job that requires a large amount of hands-on work, such as medicine or mechanics, vocational training in high school can do a world of good, potentially allowing students to earn all or most of a degree or certificate while still in secondary education. However, to those pursuing white-collar careers and college/university educations, technical training is an obvious step in the wrong direction, to the point that no school system has ever required it. Although school systems have never required that those pursuing an academic career attend classes outside their intended occupation, they have required this of almost every future blue-collar worker. For a school system to be efficient and effective, this must stop.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby n4ry4 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:01 pm UTC

Another problem to address is rewarding seniority instead of rewarding quality teaching.

This may all be anecdotal, but there was an article just today in the editorial page of USA Today about how difficult it is to fire a teacher in (I believe it was) New York.

Because union representation for teachers is so powerful, the beaurocratic hoops to have to jump through to terminate 8 underperforming teachers ended up costing, it said, $225,000.

I have a friend who is a teacher who once mentioned a public school district his mom (also a teacher) worked in where they had to make cuts because of budget constraints and they cut the youngest teachers because of lack of seniority, and according to him, some of them were the best teachers in the school.

Personally I wouldn't want my kids in a school where it's hard to fire someone; it says they're more interested in keeping the current organizational structure than in getting the most effective team.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby BlackSails » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:16 pm UTC

n4ry4 wrote:Another problem to address is rewarding seniority instead of rewarding quality teaching.


They ought to do the same for just about everything. Jobs should be about quality, effort and productivity, not how long you have been there.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Vaniver » Thu Jul 17, 2008 11:08 pm UTC

School vouchers. Get rid of the stultifying bureaucracy and union influence, and education will improve itself. It doesn't matter how- I don't pretend to know the perfect solution for education everywhere. I just know if you let people hunt for their own solutions, they find more and better ones.

frezik wrote:Memorizing multiplication tables should be deemphasized in favor of teaching more complex math sooner (the kind where the teacher will allow you to use a calculator, because the important parts can't be done with a calculator, anyway).
Basic math skills need to be drilled in. There's no point in teaching kids how to complete the square when they can't reliably square numbers.

mrandrew wrote:Anyway I agree with alot of what has been said but I think that one fundamental point has been missed: The US education system will always be a failure, for the simple reason that poor students receive an education that is inferior to those of wealthy students, by LAW.

Now please correct me if I'm wrong but it is my understanding that in the US if you live in a wealthy area then your schools receive more funding than those in a poor area.
The vast majority of educational funding comes from county taxes, which are generally property taxes. People want to buy homes near good schools, which raises property values and thus property taxes, which increases school funding. People don't want to buy homes near bad schools, which depresses property values and thus property taxes, which decreases school funding. You can see where this is going.

Important caveat: School funding is weakly linked to student performance. Throwing dollars at students helps, but isn't enough. Plans that just consist of "same bad methodology, but with more funds" are not going to be as effective as "more good methodology."

e946 wrote:I disagree with this strongly, mainly because of how much I loved the summer. Children need strong educations, yes, but they also need a chance to just be children, and several of those "few weeks off" are going to be during times where it's too cold to do anything useful with that time off.
If you keep the current minimum of 180 days of schooling a year, you've still got 185 days of vacation to spread around (although 104 of them will be weekends anyway; a better way to look at it is being in school for 36 out of 52 weeks).

So even if the summer is a month long instead of two months long, that'll probably cause a significant improvement in knowledge retention. And, heck, if you increase it to 39 weeks per year, that's an extra year of education over a student's 12 year career.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Indon » Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:24 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:School vouchers. Get rid of the stultifying bureaucracy and union influence, and education will improve itself. It doesn't matter how- I don't pretend to know the perfect solution for education everywhere. I just know if you let people hunt for their own solutions, they find more and better ones.

They have to care about the results first. In a culture that cares more about extracurricular sports than accurate science education, I honestly don't think this will accomplish much.

Among all the things to some degree correlated with education quality, parental involvement and interest practically trivializes factors such as school funding or private/public (except for when they coincide, such as in the case of parents willing to pay extra for public schooling). It's the 600 pound gorilla in the system, and it is a very sick gorilla indeed.

Vaniver wrote:Basic math skills need to be drilled in. There's no point in teaching kids how to complete the square when they can't reliably square numbers.

You know, I'm not entirely sure about this. Drilling clearly works to some degree, for some people, but teaching the theory and letting people figure out their own mnemonics (or just teaching them mnemonics, which admittedly would just be drilling them but better) may be superior.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby BlackSails » Fri Jul 18, 2008 4:10 am UTC

There is a fine balance between teaching theory and forcing students to grind problems.

Yeah, its a pain in the ass to foil (x^2+y^3-4z^5)(2x^-3-6yz+z), but students need to learn how to actually do problems, rather than just the theory behind them.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Maduyn » Fri Jul 18, 2008 4:43 am UTC

Prehaps a better idea would be to make it a competitive industry so that multipule private ciriculums and teachings would compete for government contracts the americans urge to make more money means that they will do what ever they can to make that happen thus improving education because of compitition



as for summer i think it could be shortend to around a month because i seem to recall i was just bored most of the summer.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Vaniver » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:05 am UTC

Indon wrote:Among all the things to some degree correlated with education quality, parental involvement and interest practically trivializes factors such as school funding or private/public (except for when they coincide, such as in the case of parents willing to pay extra for public schooling). It's the 600 pound gorilla in the system, and it is a very sick gorilla indeed.
Yep- but one would imagine that giving parents some choice would increase their involvement.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby jayhsu » Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:35 am UTC

Maduyn wrote:Prehaps a better idea would be to make it a competitive industry so that multipule private ciriculums and teachings would compete for government contracts the americans urge to make more money means that they will do what ever they can to make that happen thus improving education because of compitition


On paper, this might be a good idea, but it would have to be very well monitored - it isn't like privatizing garbage pickups. Businesses do not hesitate to cut corners when it comes to competition, and God forbid that be a detriment to our children.

I'm all for free markets and businesses (I'm a business major), but a little caution goes a long way.
-Jay

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby vodka.cobra » Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:53 am UTC

I had a suggestion (posted here) for improving the public educational system:

Allow students to opt-in to a second-tier grading program that works differently than the traditional semester grading program: Instead of 40% of the grade coming from the first quarter of the semester, 40% of the grade coming from the second quarter of the semester, and 20% coming from the final exam-- make the ratio 25% to 25% to 50%. Kids who opt into this program would be allowed breathing room to study and learn the material without having to stress over bullshit assignments.

I can't see any immediate problems with this suggestion, but that's probably just an oversight.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby a thing » Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:10 am UTC

I agree with those who said teachers need to be reformed by rewarding actual teaching effectiveness instead of seniority and lowering the barriers for experts with real-world experience to teach in their fields.

Required health classes need reformation, too. The goal should be to teach students realistic information that will help them get/stay healthy. Real drug facts that reduce harm should be taught. Up-to-date nutrition needs to be much more emphasized (refined grains, processed foods, and red meat are bad). Students should learn their options on contraceptive as well as how to get & use them properly. Mental health facts should be taught and encourage sensitivity to those suffering from poor mental health.
I realize that the sex and drug education have strong sociopolitical forces against them, but they are good goals.

darth.malie wrote:Rigor is there for those who seek it


Not always true. Too much is wasted on the students that won't benefit to always provide for those that can take advantage of the provisions. I actually wrote a term paper on this for my AP English class. It's 22 double-spaced pages, so I won't post the whole thing.

darth.malie wrote:For students that face the reality of making a living with their hands and providing for themselves and their future families, learning how to balance a checkbook, properly clean a sink, write a resume or be an informed voter is much more relevant and useful to them than learning how to find the inverse of 13X2, prepare a solution of .25 molar HCl, write a literary analysis or summarize the revolutionary war could ever be.


An informed voter knows and understands the history of the country they are voting in.

darth.mailie wrote:In the right circumstances, technical or vocational education can be immensely valuable, preparing students for future jobs and careers and allowing them to move into the workplace faster.


Getting students into the workplace faster should not be the goal of education system reform. More effectiveness and efficiency (not forcing academics and arts on those that they do not benefit) should be the goal.

I think it is important to note that the vocational, artistic, and academic facilities should not be physically distant. This way, students can easily take a variety of classes from any group and there is greater opportunity for socialization with people with diverse interests.

vodka.cobra wrote:Allow students to opt-in to a second-tier grading program that works differently than the traditional semester grading program: Instead of 40% of the grade coming from the first quarter of the semester, 40% of the grade coming from the second quarter of the semester, and 20% coming from the final exam-- make the ratio 25% to 25% to 50%. Kids who opt into this program would be allowed breathing room to study and learn the material without having to stress over bullshit assignments.


Looks like a great idea to me.
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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby Dazmilar » Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:39 pm UTC

Obviously a complex issue. The quality of public education is incredibly varied depending on where you are in the United States. One of the issues with trying to adopt some form of nationally standardized education system is that the United States is large, both in geography and population. It might be easier for South Africa or Europe to have nationally standardized education. The way I've seen this attempted in the USA is standardized testing, which from my experience leads teachers to teach to the test for about a week preceding testing, and then teaching what they want besides. I also think that if you tried to force all of your teachers into a mold by using the same textbooks and lesson plans, you'd soon find your best teachers leaving their field. And if you factor in the large geographical landscape of the US into some of the subjects, standardization becomes even harder. Schools in the South, for instance, tend to cover the Civil War in far greater detail than the North. One of my History profs used to joke that he'd seen the War of 1812 covered in half a class, just to make more time for the Civil War. The Civil War has greater relevance there, and it's easier to create out-of-class activities. Far easier to plan a field trip to a battlefield when you live within an hour of one. Similarly, if you live near Williamsburg, I'd expect you'd have a greater focus on the Colonial period and the Revolutionary War. This doesn't strike me as a particularly bad thing.

Some of the other ideas in the thread I've already seen implemented. Computer Programming? The first time I used LOGO was in 3rd grade at a public school. I've seen Choice both implemented and removed and re-implemented. A few of the issues found by being able to choose your own public school: Nobody chose the inner city schools. Long bus rides. There were those who lived within 5-8 miles of my middle school who spent an hour and a half to two hours just to get home. Of course, when they removed Choice, they found that a lot of the smart kids who wanted to be in the feeder pattern for the "good" public high schools but weren't, just went to private or parochial schools.

Art and Music education is also important. Mind you, this may be because of age, but when I was in middle school in the mid-90s, the art and music programs at the majority of the public schools in my area were far better and more developed than equivalent programs in private schools, where they were notoriously underfunded. I expect this has changed since then, since everyone harps on these areas as being underfunded in public schools, but my experience with art, chorus, and band in middle school was exceptional.

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Re: Improving education (U.S.)

Postby SpiderMonkey » Fri Jul 18, 2008 12:54 pm UTC

The most likely reason for education in the United States suffering is the same reason why education, and indeed all public services, are suffering across the western world. Since the 1980s there has been a trend to try and introduce 'market forces' into public services because according to the orthodox neoliberal view this will make them more efficient. In practice, it does not. It smacks straight into Goodhart's law, hard. When you build an education system on targets, constant testing, and performance tables then those things instantly become useless for measuring the quality of education, and become ends in their selves.

In the UK, SATS, numeracy and literacy target have crippled the idea of a broad education that helps the child develop into an adult, and turned into an almost militaristic process of memorising enough rote facts to get through the exams. My fiancee is a teacher, and trust me when I tell you it is not their fault. The market mechanisms introduced under Thatcher constrain her ultimately remove the majority of her decision making power in the classroom, because she has to take the shortest path to meet the targets.

I don't know much about the situation in the US, but I have heard anecdotes suggesting that the situation over there is somewhat similar.


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