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    #235414 - 12/11/16 01:49 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    I don't agree about our education system being stuck in the 1950s. The 50s was when the space race started. US schools were much better then (and in the 60s). I have math books from those decades, and they're way more rigorous than the current ones (also coherent and clearly written by people who understood the subject matter). Poor textbooks are a big part of our problem, IMO.

    Another problem is that many teachers lack subject knowledge. This problem is worst at the K-8 level in public schools and some religious schools (e.g. Evangelical Christian schools that reject evolution, etc.). We don't like to talk about this fact (teacher bashing!)

    Teaching is a low-prestige profession here, but when its members collectively have the lowest SAT, GRE, and Miller Analogies scores, low prestige isn't surprising. As for low pay driving the problem, average salaries in districts around here are $75-90K. Yet our public schools are still generally lousy. Places like Russian Scool of Mathematics, Mathnasium, and other tutoring places are very popular here. There are at least 4 within walking distance of my house.

    Parents make a big difference, but I don't think we should dump on parents working two low wage jobs without benefits just so they can make ends meet. They can't barely make the rent, let alone Kumon, may not have subject knowledge to help their kids, and are probably don't have the bandwidth anyway. I think that US society is very quick to dump on people it sets up for failure.

    This is where Canada and other nations do so much better than us. But we don't acknowledge this fact. Instead, we claim that the white and Asian kids in America do as well as high scoring PISA countries, which strikes me as a justification for ignoring the effects of poverty via an unsubtle claim about inherent lack of ability in some groups? I doubt very much that, for example, poor white kids in Appalachia are outscoring their peers in Finland or Canada.

    Our narrowly focused high-stakes tests are also a problem. We favor industrial measures where low-tech solutions are called for. We give the kids passages to read, followed by multiple choice questions testing "comprehension," instead of asking them to read a whole story or a novel, talking about it, and then writing a paragraph or a paper. IMO, we choose an edu-diet of fast food over balanced nutrition. And then we wonder what's wrong. Throw in fads (whole language, no wrong answers in math, Common Core), and the results are predictable.

    It's complicated. And I think that ideology on the left (Equity!) and right (The free market!) just makes it even more so.

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    #235415 - 12/11/16 02:49 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    ruazkaz Offline
    Member

    Registered: 08/23/12
    Posts: 128
    Val - so what do you suggest the US does to improve the education system?

    As I mentioned earlier, I always felt like folks should not have children if they cannot afford to raise them but have come around to supporting more of some sort of Head Start initiative. Indigo referred to a study indicating that it was shown that unfortunately Head Start has not been found to have lasting impacts. From what I have seen locally, schools and teachers want more money but have not come up with any ideas on what they will do that might improve something.

    I agree with you that it is very complicated but what you seem to have done is to bash responses so far without having any of your own suggestions.

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    #235416 - 12/11/16 03:14 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: Val]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4902
    Originally Posted By: Val
    Poor textbooks are a big part of our problem, IMO.
    I agree that many older textbooks (including math) are better that what is issued today.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    average salaries in districts around here are $75-90K.
    This compares with a median household income of $51,939 as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, September 2014.

    In general, teachers in government schools enjoy a strong labor union. In addition to above-average salaries while working 9 or 10 months rather than a full 12-month year, many have strong employment benefits packages. This may include full tuition reimbursement for successfully completing coursework toward obtaining higher degrees, post-retirement pensions, and life-long post-employment health insurance benefits. Some teachers "retire" from one district, and collect a pension while being employed by another district.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    I don't think we should dump on parents working two low wage jobs without benefits just so they can make ends meet.
    I agree.

    Here I will add that the "Affordable Healthcare Act" (also known as Obamacare) has provided incentive to many companies to cut the average work-week from 40 hours (with benefits) to under 30 hours (without benefits).

    Originally Posted By: Val
    I think that US society is very quick to dump on people it sets up for failure.
    Some may say that the way in which in which a society sets people up for failure is by funding (rewarding) self-defeating behaviors... which may tend to encourage more of the self-defeating behavior, even through multiple generations.

    Unfortunately, all of the above may negatively impact the in-home educational support for some students.

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    #235419 - 12/11/16 04:36 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    longcut Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/25/15
    Posts: 266
    LAF, another direction worth looking into is the impact of institutionalized racism, segregation, and poverty on the education system. Disparity across the nation is the result of many factors.

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    #235422 - 12/11/16 05:04 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: ruazkaz]
    Val Offline
    Member

    Registered: 09/01/07
    Posts: 3296
    Loc: California
    Originally Posted By: ruazkaz
    Val - so what do you suggest the US does to improve the education system?

    I agree with you that it is very complicated but what you seem to have done is to bash responses so far without having any of your own suggestions.


    I had a couple of suggestions in my post: read whole stories or novels instead of excerpts, discuss them, and write paragraphs (ETA: younger kids) or papers (older kids) about them.

    Also, I thought that math books written by people with subject knowledge was implicit. I'll also add that it helps to have writers with subject knowledge who have also taught and who know the points where kids get stuck.

    Alternatively, and more cheaply, we could just use the old ones. The Brown/Doliciani books that I've mentioned many times here are a prime example. They run from pre-algebra through introductory analysis (called precalc these days, but analysis is much different).

    Science: embed the scientific method in all teaching. Instead of presenting facts only, teach how discoveries are made and how they must be proven. EVIDENCE. This theme is essentially lacking from pedagogy today, and IMNSHO, the problem is due to teachers who don't know what the scientific method is and books that give it a page in a sidebar. It has to be integrated.

    Grammar: bring that back. Schools don't teach this subject like they once did (the National Council of Teachers of English took a position against it in 1985). I know that my kids have had minimal exposure. Grammar lessons should be accompanied by lot of writing. My class started writing stories at the end of first grade. By second grade, it was common. My kids didn't do anywhere near as much of that as we did as kids. And everything was corrected by our by our teachers.

    Quote:
    I always felt like folks should not have children if they cannot afford to raise them


    You may have changed your opinion somewhat, but you make it sound so simple, like no one ever loses a job or gets sick. Medical bills are the #1 cause of US bankruptcies. So should pregnancy rights be restricted to people who will never lose a job or get sick/injured? I know you're not suggesting that there should be a license to get pregnant, but the quoted statement is just so...simplistic.

    I stand by my criticism of harsh attitudes that blame people for circumstances beyond their control --- attitudes often held by people who don't have to struggle through a life of stress and hopelessness. Some people live with a level of stress that's so immense and distracting, it precludes an ability to do homework consistently. Mom and dad are shouting about how to pay the rent AND buy a needed medicine (at full price because they don't have insurance), the heat got turned off, there's no internet at home, and there's nothing but white bread for dinner.

    The thing is, American society is so very harsh. People here can be so judgmental about others. It's almost become a blood sport. There's also this idea that anyone can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Where's the constructive compassion?

    This stuff just doesn't happen to this degree in places like Canada or Denmark, because medical care is a right and because wage laws ensure that people can live on the earnings of a single full-time job. Schools are funded equally, and they 1) spend their money well and 2) don't have to go begging for art or science supplies. Less stress helps improve outcomes. This is what I mean by constructive compassion.

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    #235423 - 12/11/16 05:30 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    SaturnFan Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/04/16
    Posts: 108
    I agree with pretty much everything that has been said so far. I especially feel strongly about ability grouping. I also believe that mixed age classrooms in general are better. My grandfather is over 100 and went to a small schoolhouse with all different ages. He paid attention when the teacher taught the older kids math and ended up learning it well ahead. He wasn't great at reading though and learned that with his age mates (mate). There was no set differentiation or acceleration, the kids just grouped by what they were ready for purely on their own. Certainly that works best if you have 20 kids total in the whole school (my grandfather's grade had 2 students, he always jokes he was the 2nd best student in his class!), but I think it also says something important and interesting even if it's no longer feasible.

    My other thing that I feel strongly about is teaching beyond academics. How will a child living in poverty ever learn to manage money for instance? How will a kid who sees adults in their life making poor choices daily ever learn to be a good decision maker? We need to spend a lot of the day teaching real life skills to children, especially those children who are not learning it at home. IMO, this is an important part of breaking the poverty cycle. Will a child who realistically is not going to go on to college someday be better served with tons of state testing and instruction beyond their ability to get the best test results possible or academics at just the right level freeing up so much instructional time for learning about good nutrition and how to make a budget?

    We need to teach all students to be better critical thinkers. To understand and interpret statistics and navigate a world full of advertising and politics. We need to teach logic rather than just textbook math. When you focus so much getting everyone up to a certain level on a test of a very limited number of subjects all else gets less time. I'm sure that the young person flipping burgers for a living and barely able to support herself and her 2 kids even with some public assistance would have been much better off learning some budgeting and decision making skills than learning a bunch of unconnected math she will never use.

    When I went to school we had 4 groups in each grade. Group 1 was college prep and there were 3 other groups. The 4th was remedial. We were given tests for placement, but each year some moved up and some moved down. We took entirely different classes or different versions of the same class or went at a different pace. People learned what they needed to learn to go on to the careers they were best suited to. If your dad was a mechanic and you wanted to be a mechanic too you could just take what you needed to to graduate and do what you wanted with your life. Over a third of my classmates went to vocational school for high school. I started college early. My school was actually not very good in general (poor, rural area), but ability grouping was one things they got right.

    I would also argue that the assertion that less able kids benefit and so do more able from mixed ability classes sounds ridiculous to me. More able children are frustrated. They are held back in their learning and development. They often end up being more intolerant of the slower kids who are holding them back and who they are often tasked with tutoring (to help them master the material better too, of course). And the less able kids honestly feel stupid. They know they are slower. I personally would rather have a hard time mastering addition in 3rd grade with other kids in the same boat than with a bunch of kids who are learning times tables and a few who seem to get everything the first time the teacher presents it and complain about waiting for me to finish up my work each day. I honestly think ability grouping leads to better self esteem and more effective teaching of all abilities.

    OK, said my bit. Not that it will make any difference. Our solution was to leave public education entirely and do homeschooling and we are now trying out private gifted school. I'm not sure that public could ever meet my sons needs and prior experience makes me hesitant to ever try again. What could they do with a first grader who has mastered elementary math? The elementary teachers aren't likely to have the expertise to teach higher math even if they had the time and the inclination. This leads into better teacher training of course. I'll never forget the day in 3rd grade when I realized I was smarter than my teacher. While he was spectacularly unintelligent even for an elementary teacher in my district, it was still hard for me to cope with listening to and supposedly learning from someone who I could think circles around. Soon I was smarter than all of my teachers. And I was never identified as gifted. How much harder must it be for the most gifted children to deal with being taught by people who can't even understand at the level they can understand at? So, yeah, better and more highly educated teachers who are compensated accordingly, I'll add that to my most important points:) OK, that's really it!

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    #235424 - 12/11/16 05:47 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    KJP Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/29/12
    Posts: 756
    I have a likely unpopular view point to add. I think we need a complete overhaul of everything students learn in public education. I think there is a lot of math taught that is never ever used. I think most people will graduate and never again write a research paper. Science and history/government might be fine but I'd put more emphasis on understanding medical and child development issues under science. I'd also add a how to live on "insert median household income here" while saving for retirement classes.

    There is a huge disconnect between what is taught and what people need to know. Learning how to weigh salary and benefits packages, negotiate a lease, compare credit card offers, convince a city council to pass an ordinance or do home maintenance is far more relevant than learning about something like iambic pentameter.

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    #235425 - 12/11/16 05:47 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    KJP Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/29/12
    Posts: 756
    I also think there'd be more cultural buy in if education was more relevant.


    Edited by KJP (12/11/16 05:55 PM)

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    #235426 - 12/11/16 06:20 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: LAF]
    SaturnFan Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/04/16
    Posts: 108
    What KJP said is what I was trying to say. Only a lot more coherently and succinctly. I know that I personally use almost nothing I was taught after elementary school in my daily life. I am a person who loves to learn and to know things, but that actually hinders me more than it helps (I waste a lot of time on stuff that is not important that I could put to much better use).

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    #235427 - 12/11/16 06:28 PM Re: Education in the United States [Re: Val]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4902
    Originally Posted By: Val
    read whole stories or novels instead of excerpts
    Agreed! I've also posted about this in the past... meanwhile many schools are creating anthologies of passages/excerpts for students to read, out of context.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    Instead of presenting facts only, teach how discoveries are made and how they must be proven. EVIDENCE. This theme is essentially lacking from pedagogy today...
    Agreed!

    Originally Posted By: Val
    Grammar: bring that back. Schools don't teach this subject like they once did (the National Council of Teachers of English took a position against it in 1985).
    Agreed!

    Originally Posted By: Val
    I stand by my criticism of harsh attitudes that blame people for circumstances beyond their control ---
    I would tend to agree. There is a difference between making self-defeating choices, and dealing with a set of circumstances beyond one's control.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    idea that anyone can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
    While many can, and some are unwilling to, it is probably untrue that anyone can.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    Where's the constructive compassion?
    I'm familiar with heroic levels of volunteerism, as well as sacrificial levels of monetary donations and goods to those in need.

    Originally Posted By: Val
    medical care is a right
    Possibly you mean it is government-funded, using taxpayer money?

    Originally Posted By: Val
    wage laws ensure that people can live on the earnings of a single full-time job
    Some might say wages are better determined by supply and demand?

    Originally Posted By: Val
    Schools are funded equally, and they 1) spend their money well and 2) don't have to go begging for art or science supplies.
    US schools spend $12,296 per pupil (2012 figures), including teacher benefits, such as advanced degrees, health insurance, pensions.

    The US expenditure per pupil exceeds that of Canada and Denmark, which are both reported as approximately $10K (2012 figures).

    More reports available from National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

    Browsing these statistics and those of State Departments of Education show that low-performing districts may actually spend more per pupil.

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