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Author Topic: Five Ways to Fix America's Schools
philnotfil
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NYTimes

quote:
Raise the age of compulsory education to 19.
I don't see how this is going to be very helpful, the people who dropout at 16 aren't going to be helped by three more years of sitting through classes, and will increase the inefficiency of schools as time is wasted with their discipline issues. I already don't think that public education should be compulsory, so this is a non-starter for me anyway.

quote:
Use high pressure sales tactics to curb truancy.
What a great (and expensive) way to get people happy about the public schools.

quote:
Advertise creatively and aggressively to encourage college enrollment.
He gives the University of Phoenix's success and advertising budget as proof that this will work. I'm thinking that Phoenix is successful because they are flexible and provide a useful product more than that they spend a bunch of money on advertising. I don't think there are many people who are going to change their mind about the importance of going to college because of an advertising campaign, they already get 13 years of indoctrination about the importance of going to college. Let's just spend that money on scholarships.

quote:
Unseal college accreditation reports so that the Department of Education can take over the business of ranking colleges and universities.
I really don't see how this accomplishes anything. I don't know what would be in these accreditation reports that isn't already available to anyone who is willing to look for the information (at least for public schools, some of the financial stuff may be hard to find for the private schools, but that doesn't seem to be what people are looking for when they make college decisions).

quote:
The biggest improvement we can make in higher education is to produce more qualified applicants.
His solution:
quote:
Better teachers, smaller classes and more modern schools are all part of the solution. But improving parenting skills and providing struggling parents with assistance are part of the solution too.
Genius, get parents involved in raising their kids, why hasn't anyone else though of this. Better teachers, better schools, better parents. I wish someone had thought of this sooner.[/sarcasm]

[ June 14, 2009, 08:13 PM: Message edited by: philnotfil ]

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Funean
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That might be the lamest analysis of what's wrong with eductional policy in this country ever written, with accordingly lame conclusions.

Yes, focusing on secondary and tertiary education will certainly fix the problems that are universally acknowledged at beginning at the elementary level or even earlier. Oh wait, that's the parents' fault. Well then, all solved. Sheesh.

(Okay, to be less sarcastic: at best, he's not only putting the cart before the horse, he hasn't even secured the horse yet. Or verified that horses exist.)

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Viking_Longship
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We're not going to make those radical changes to the public educaation system. Forcing people into secondary education is a bad idea. So my five ways to fix america's schools...

Seperate the athletic programs intoprivate amature leauges. A school is there to educate no create a wierd system of teenage brahmins.

Abolish draconian measures to keep kids in school past the age of 16. THis means stop forcing schools into a budgeting crunch over attendance.

Get rid of the junkfood, start serving healthy food in the cafeteria and make sure the students are there and eating something.

Start school at a reasonable hour in the morning. Start at 9 finish at 4 and let the teenagers get a reasonable amount of sleep. (you'll also cut down on hooliganism and teen sex)

And this is the most important one, come to grips with the notion that not all students are going to college. At the highschool level the students who want to go to university go to one highschool, the ones who want to go into trades go into another. Both schools offer excellent programs but differant ones.

So there are my ideas, none of which will come to pass. [Smile]

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Doug64
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Good picks, VL, to which I would add making a high school diploma mean something again by pulling out the standards from a century ago, update the history and civics to match the current situation, then require that students pass those tests before getting a diploma. We shouldn't need to use the first year of college as remedial education.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
I would add making a high school diploma mean something again by pulling out the standards from a century ago...
What would you do with the hard sciences? Would you just add more requirements?
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RickyB
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I agree that the value of a simple hs/ged should be enhanced, but I disagree that we should be herding everyone into college. Too many high schools aspire only to produce college-bound kids, when the actual kids at those schools would benefit more from learning vocational skills and trades.
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Doug64
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
What would you do with the hard sciences? Would you just add more requirements?

Good point on the hard sciences. I'd update the knowledge base to reflect what we've learned in the past century, of course, but would probably want to have most of them be electives. But the point is that the tests have gotten easier over the decades, and that's been a major mistake.
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jasonr
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quote:
And this is the most important one, come to grips with the notion that not all students are going to college. At the highschool level the students who want to go to university go to one highschool, the ones who want to go into trades go into another. Both schools offer excellent programs but differant ones.
I liked most of your ideas except this one.

I hate the idea of "streamlining" a kid's future by forcing him to choose such a well defined path at such an early age. Kids of that age aren't mature enough to know what they want for breakfast, let alone how they want to spend the rest of their lives!

Many kids, perhaps the children of working class parents, might be pressured into "trade school" even if they have the potential to achieve higher education. Many students might choose one area or another without fully understanding the implications of that choice.

I say permit trade school options in the form of optional courses or "streams" without segregating them or shoe-horning them at an early age.

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PSRT
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quote:
But the point is that the tests have gotten easier over the decades
This point is factually wrong.
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TommySama
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I hear that claim a lot. Is there any solid evidence to base either claim on?

University: come for the college education - stay for the college girls.

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Doug64
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
quote:
But the point is that the tests have gotten easier over the decades
This point is factually wrong.
I can't find a link to the examples of tests I've seen from sixty-plus years ago, but while searching I did come across this: Today's College Students and Yesteryear's High School Grads: A Comparison of General Cultural Knowledge

Included in the conclusion:
quote:
A more numerous set of benchmark questions would have provided a deeper and more systematic answer to the question of how much extra "furnishings of the mind” today’s college education adds to that generally acquired by high school graduates fifty to sixty years ago. Nonetheless, the questions we used suggest that the addition of general cultural knowledge has probably been only modest and spotty. Literary and scientific knowledge may have improved, geographical knowledge seems on balance about the same, knowledge of history, especially world history, may have declined. On the whole, there does not appear to be any impressive advance beyond previous levels of high school attainment, nor an approximation of what previous college graduates appear to have mastered.

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The Drake
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There are a number of tests for which questions have been made easier, or the standard for passing scores lowered, but it is impossible to determine an aggregate "tests have gotten easier/harder" statement.

google. tests easier school

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IrishTD
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VL --

Your first four suggestions are excellent. Only one I would probably add is to move towards more of a year-round schedule. I know there has been some work done to determine how much kids forget over the 2-3 month summer vacation, but don't recall how bad it was...just remember that it was a pretty significant quantity.

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philnotfil
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WaPo
quote:
-- Most students -- regardless of family income or background -- lose 2 to 2 1/2 months of the math computational skills that they learned during the school year.

-- Students from low-income homes lose two to three months in reading skills learned in the previous school year.

-- Middle-class students make slight gains in reading achievement as measured on standardized tests.


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Viking_Longship
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I think what is gained by summer liesure and family time is valuable enough that it justifies itself although we could shorten the summer break by a month and lengthen the winter break.

Jason I would leave the option open for a university prep course that could be taken at any time for those who wish to go to university later.

I should ask my missus how she handled it since I know she had a technical education and worked in a factory for a few years before she went to university. She's what they call an ABD now (all but dissertation) on her Ph.D so it doesn't appear to be a life sentence.

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by Viking_Longship:
I think what is gained by summer liesure and family time is valuable enough that it justifies itself although we could shorten the summer break by a month and lengthen the winter break.

More from the article:
quote:
When it comes to reading, experts say, some kids make progress not only because they read more.

"Life experiences other than reading can lead to advantages in reading comprehension," said Daniel T. Willingham, a professor of psychology at U-Va. who is an expert in cognition and the application of cognitive principles to K-12 education.

"If you don't have a reading problem or a problem with decoding . . . your ability to read a passage is dependent on having some relevant background knowledge," he said.

Such knowledge is related to the wide variety of summer experiences for many middle-class and affluent kids -- in camp, on vacation, in their own homes. The lack of resources for poor children in the summer has big consequences, experts say.


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Daruma28
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There is nothing to fix...the institution of American public education is doing exactly what it was designed to do.
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KonerAtHome
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
quote:
And this is the most important one, come to grips with the notion that not all students are going to college. At the highschool level the students who want to go to university go to one highschool, the ones who want to go into trades go into another. Both schools offer excellent programs but differant ones.
I liked most of your ideas except this one.

I hate the idea of "streamlining" a kid's future by forcing him to choose such a well defined path at such an early age. Kids of that age aren't mature enough to know what they want for breakfast, let alone how they want to spend the rest of their lives!

Many kids, perhaps the children of working class parents, might be pressured into "trade school" even if they have the potential to achieve higher education. Many students might choose one area or another without fully understanding the implications of that choice.

I say permit trade school options in the form of optional courses or "streams" without segregating them or shoe-horning them at an early age.

I think most kids have a general idea of what they want to be when they grow up by the time they are 16. Generally speaking, they know if they want to be a doctor or a mechanic, a teacher or a carpenter, a nurse or a chef, a computer programmer or technician.

I am, and have been a staunch advocate of vocational-technical high schools, but I think that they are utilized very poorly in most school districts. When I was recruiting for the Navy from 96-99 I spent a lot of time in vo-techs as well as "regular" high schools all over New Jersey. The regular schools saw the vo-techs as a place to direct their more troubled and hard to deal with students. They basically looked down on them as lesser forms of education, rather than an equal but different type. Educational elitism at it's best I suppose. Because of this, the vo-techs were rough places full of bullies and petty criminals. The kids who CHOSE to go to vo-techs because they saw it as a better option for them had a rough road because of the caliber of students the school districts forced to attend (it's either go to vo-tech or you are expelled).

I would like to see that relationship between vo-tech and traditional acedemic schools improved.

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jasonr
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quote:
think most kids have a general idea of what they want to be when they grow up by the time they are 16. Generally speaking, they know if they want to be a doctor or a mechanic, a teacher or a carpenter, a nurse or a chef, a computer programmer or technician.
I can only speak anectotally, but when I was 16 I wanted to be an engineer. By the time I turned 19 I knew I wanted to go into law.

To give my example some more perspective, I am one of the most stable, consistent people I have ever met. I generally pick something and then go with it for years if not forever. I am obsessive compulsive that way. The fact that someone like me could change careers so radically so quickly is instructive.

Same thing happened to my older sister. Thought she wanted to go into medicine. After one year of undergrad she switched into economics and became an investment banker. Then she decided she hated that and joined a flower company as an analyst.

I'll suggest that kids of that age certainly think they know what they want to be. But at 16 you're just too immature to be trusted with the choice to lock yourself into an irrevocable career path.

quote:
I would like to see that relationship between vo-tech and traditional acedemic schools improved.
What I don't want to see is a self-imposed ghettoization of students along class-lines. This already happens to some extent of course. If you're born to one type of family, you are expected to go to university at a bare-minimum and anything less than a professional or post-grad degree is seen as a failure, whereas in other families your parents beam with pride if you even get to college. Expectations are hugely important in shaping what a person wants to do with their lives.

Aren't you worried that segregated schools are going to ghettoize students from working class and poorer backgrounds even further? There's nothing wrong with trade school of course, but won't their very existence tend to streamline kids at a young age, so that they are allowed to kill their own options before they have a chance to appreciate or consider other possibilities?

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philnotfil
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I just spent a couple of weeks transcribing written exit surveys of graduating high school seniors with IEP's. These are all kids who had some kind of issue that meant they needed an Individual Education Plan, usually a learning disability of some sort, but some of them were pretty severely handicapped, both mentally and physically.

It was depressing. About one in twenty used sentences. About one in five used modern English spelling. They would write about their goals for next year and say things like "try find comunity collage that accept me" and then list their 5 year and life goals as "gaduate highest honors" (referring to the community college that would accept them), "go to good business collage" "start my fortune 500 company". Or they would say things like "go to cosmotology school" "market my own line of hair product". Or have a life goal of "make lots of money and start a family, becuz now I'm indepent woman".

It's great for these kids to have dreams, but shouldn't somebody have given them a little bit of reality? What is their outlook on life going to be like ten years from now when they haven't done any of that. Wouldn't they be happier if their goals were achievable and they actually achieved them?

Koner- I totally agree with you about the typical vo-tech population. When I was in high school I started drifting that way, but just couldn't deal with the people in those classes, which was probably a good thing for me. I ended up going from English for kids not going to college one year to AP English the next year. This was at a school that didn't quite officially track, but unofficially made sure that kids were put where they belonged (a good system when you have good administrators who really get to know their students, a terrible system when you have lazy administrators who don't really know their students), and when I showed up in their class the first day of school they all looked at me like I was an alien, one of them even asked what I was doing in "their class".

I think that having separate facilities for vo-tech/college prep students is a terrible thing. They at least need to know that the other side exists, otherwise you get some really terrible policy being made down the road when the policy makers have never been in touch with the way the other side lives.

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PSRT
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Part of the goal of education is to provide students with the tools to be informed voters. Part of the goal of education is to show students that the world can be shaped, by them or by others. But the main purpose of education is to provide people the tools, and the background, to pursue whatever they view as an ideal path.

That means all students should have math at least through algebra 2, trig, geometry, and pre-calculus. Literature classes. Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and an elective or two. Language classes. History classes. Engineering classes, trades classes.

I don't think voch-tech schools do a good job at providing a broad background. Nor do "mainstream," public schools provide enough engineering and trade classes. Mix things up so students have a broader variety of classes to choose from, rather than streaming them into particular programs.

College or trade school is where specialization should occur, not high school or earlier.

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jasonr
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quote:
It was depressing. About one in twenty used sentences. About one in five used modern English spelling. They would write about their goals for next year and say things like "try find comunity collage that accept me" and then list their 5 year and life goals as "gaduate highest honors" (referring to the community college that would accept them), "go to good business collage" "start my fortune 500 company". Or they would say things like "go to cosmotology school" "market my own line of hair product". Or have a life goal of "make lots of money and start a family, becuz now I'm indepent woman".

It's great for these kids to have dreams, but shouldn't somebody have given them a little bit of reality? What is their outlook on life going to be like ten years from now when they haven't done any of that. Wouldn't they be happier if their goals were achievable and they actually achieved them?

The "goals" stated as examples above are not the product of an over-emphasis of university education at the expense of skilled trades. They are an example of lack of emphasis on any meaningful education, skill or training of any kind. These kids talk about college the way they might talk about life in some distant galaxy.
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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by jasonr:
These kids talk about college the way they might talk about life in some distant galaxy.

That is a good way of saying it. They don't seem to have any idea of what it takes, but they have been told, and believe, that going to college is how you become successful, so that is where they want to go, despite having no knowledge of what college involves.

[ June 17, 2009, 12:25 PM: Message edited by: philnotfil ]

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jasonr
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quote:
That is a good way of saying it. They don't seem to have any idea of what it takes, but they have been told, and believe, that going to college is how you become successful, so that is where they want to go, despite having no knowledge of what college involves.
That's one spin on it. But you'll notice that as many cited goals without mentioning college (cosmotology school, run a fortune 500 company, marketing a hair product) as did the ones who were interested in college.

I don't think these kids were indoctrinated to want to go to college at the expense of trade school. I think they have just grabbed a bunch of pipe dreams from TV, movies, and other assorted sources and come up with these fuzzy "goals" that have little connection with reality in or outside of a college.

The point is, I don't think the issue is that they are being pushed into college; the issue is that they aren't being pushed into anything, so they are just filling the void with whatever garbage their imaginations can come up with.

God only knows what (if anything) their parents have been telling them about education and finding a career.

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