We don't need no Education (thread)

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We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:17 pm

We probably don't need a thread on education, and that thought has kept me from making one in the past. I figured such a thread would soon die from lack of interest (as opposed to the other things that threads die from, like, I don't know, thread cancer).

Anyway, what the heck. This place needs people making threads instead of complaining that there's not enough activity.

The purpose of this thread is to discuss education, from preschool to doctoral studies. Also, being a teacher myself, I will likely use it for random musings about my experiences.

To get the ball rolling
America's biggest teacher and principal cheating scandal unfolds in Atlanta]

I've read various stories about this one. To sum it up:
The 55,000-student Atlanta public school system rose in national prominence during the 2000s, as test scores steadily rose and the district received notice and funding from the Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation. But behind that rise, the state found, were teachers and principals in 44 schools erasing and changing test answers.
Literally hundreds of teachers and administrators in Atlanta were involved in this to various extents. What can be done and who can be blamed? What about the young teachers who were pressured into it by their seniors? Is this sort of thing really a surprise in a system where only schools with high achieving students get sufficient funding?
Last edited by neo-dragon on Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Young Val » Fri Sep 16, 2011 7:21 pm

I'm actually kind of speechless. Of course, I read your last sentence and then realized, no, it probably shouldn't be surprising at all. It makes me glad I dropped my education major to study writing instead, but it also makes me depressed as hell that I dropped my education major to study writing instead.
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Postby neo-dragon » Fri Sep 16, 2011 9:50 pm

I actually don't think that I would want to be a teacher if I lived in the States. I have issues with aspects of the education system, and it seems to me that teachers are generally under appreciated and under paid.
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Postby steph » Fri Sep 16, 2011 10:14 pm

I appreciate our teachers! I know that I could never be Tyler's teacher. I would severely damage his self esteem, the way we butt heads. I show my appreciation for his teachers by volunteering in the classroom weekly.

I am patiently waiting to see what is offered for Tyler this year to keep him stimulated and moving forward. I'm looking forward to seeing what reading level he's testing at this year. He ended kindergarten at a 5th grade level. I should find out at conferences in a couple of weeks. His teacher is talking about getting him into a 3rd grade class for reading, though I wouldn't doubt that Tyler can read better than 90% of the kids in 3rd grade.

Unfortunately, gifted programs don't start until 2nd grade (not going to rant about that now), so we are trying our best to help him thrive at home. This kid is thirsting for science right now and early elementary just does not put much emphasis on it, as they are focusing on reading, writing and math. My dad ordered lots of physics sets and toys so he can supplement Tyler in that area. I'm also planning on doing some science in the kitchen by making candy with him and showing him how heating sugar to different temperatures changes it's texture.

(I'm sorry if this post is jumbled and rambly and doesn't make sense...I am really tired and I can't think or type straight.)
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Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 17, 2011 11:54 am

Just to make it clear that I'm not just out to criticize the American education system, here's a similar issue that hits much closer to home for me:

Cash For Marks

Slacking Off Gets High Marks at this High School.

The gist: these are stories about private schools in the Greater Toronto Area where students are basically guaranteed to get A's and thus get accepted to university and likely be awarded scholarships. But as one would expect, they usually end of flunking out of uni since they are woefully unprepared.
Provincial inspection reports obtained through freedom of information requests and interviews with students, teachers and principals, reveal:

Grades at some private schools arbitrarily increased upon request

Credits granted with less than half of mandatory class hours completed

Outdated curriculums, no lesson plans, no course outlines and missing student assessments

Difficult questions removed from exams

Teachers without proper qualifications and those who “do not understand” evaluation and assessment

Students permitted to take courses without the mandatory prerequisites

Rewriting of tests for $100

Students left to write tests with little supervision and access to the Internet.
This is utterly ridiculous. The amount of students seeking entry into university keeps increasing here in Ontario and nation wide. Thus, it can get highly competitive. So these kids are taking spots away from students who actually deserve them just because mommy and daddy can afford to buy them good grades.

The teachers and administrators at these schools are quite literally mark whores.
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Postby steph » Sat Sep 17, 2011 1:45 pm

I really wish there was a good way to make education about ACTUAL learning instead of grades. :(
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Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 17, 2011 2:29 pm

The thing is, grades can be an accurate measure of learning when they are based on proper assessment and evaluation.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Sat Sep 17, 2011 4:04 pm

I don't think it's a "funding" issue, per se. Per pupil spending has skyrocketed over the past several decades with really nothing to show for it.

Having spent the past several weeks pouring over budgets and collective bargaining agreements, I think how the money is actually spent might be the more appropriate inquiry.
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Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 17, 2011 5:26 pm

But is it not true that schools with better test scores do get more funding?
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:38 pm

Possibly. State and local funding isn't typically based on NCLB achievement, though.

Either way, the point was that it's sort of disingenous to say it's a matter of low achieving schools not getting "sufficient" funding.
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Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 17, 2011 9:46 pm

It's beside the point. If funding is in any way tied to test scores there's a high risk of this sort of thing occurring. Every organization wants more funding if possible, whether they need it or not.
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Postby Syphon the Sun » Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:10 am

If funding is in any way tied to test scores there's a high risk of this sort of thing occurring. Every organization wants more funding if possible, whether they need it or not.
I don't necessary disagree with this. I probably wouldn't have posted at all if that had been what you said. (Leaving aside the fact that many states set their standards so low that their funding is never really in question.)

But I think there's a world of difference between not getting as much funding and not getting sufficient funding. The latter implies that this kind of thing is (at least a little) justified. ("We can only get the money we need if we cheat" vs. "We can only get the money we want if we cheat.")

And with that: I'm out. I don't disagree with your most-recent position, so there's really nothing left for me to contribute at the moment.
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Postby neo-dragon » Sun Sep 18, 2011 1:12 pm

Believe me, I was never trying to provide an excuse for their actions. There isn't one.
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Re:

Postby locke » Tue Sep 20, 2011 1:58 pm

Unfortunately, gifted programs don't start until 2nd grade (not going to rant about that now),
This is a good good thing, better still would be waiting until 3rd grade to start gifted. The efficacy of gifted classes decreases substantially every earlier year they're taught. but if you start gifted in mid elementary, you have a much higher percentage of actually capturing kids with gifted abilities, rather than just kids who are advanced for their grade (mostly due to kids being born all 12 months, and somewhat due to variation in pre-K education, this is significant in K-2 grades, but tends to flatten out around third grade).

In other words. Gifted programs that start at kindergarten tend to select about only 40% gifted kids, Gifted programs that start at third grade tend to select about 95% gifted kids. Once a child is accepted into gifted, they almost never ever leave the program, this means that if gifted programs start too early, they're really not that much of an advantage to the kid in terms of getting an enriched educational experience, it's much more like a regular classroom.

The reason anyone even offers gifted at younger than third grade has to do with perverse incentives regarding how funding is distributed for the programs. Programs that have have a K-6 gifted program are much more likely to be funded than a program that is only grades 3-6 even though the K-6 either has a negative impact on the academic performances of the enrollees or an almost negligible positive effect.
So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby steph » Tue Sep 20, 2011 4:38 pm

Adam, I understand the research and all that you have said. Studies provide great information and can be very useful in deciding what's right.

That being said, it's incredibly frustrating to have a gifted child younger than 2nd grade and have to fight for him to be challenged and to get resources to help him and support him. I will continue to be frustrated that Tyler has to wait until 2nd grade to get the resources he needs. Sometimes it's not just about studies and their numbers. Sometimes it needs to be about individual kids.

(And no, I'm not just "that mom" who thinks her kid is the greatest. He isn't just advanced for his grade. He is gifted.)
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Wind Swept » Wed Sep 21, 2011 7:45 am

Sir Ken Robinson sums up my opinion of our current education system quite well.


The Full TED Talk, "Bring on the learning revolution!"
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:43 pm

That video is a lot of "here's what's wrong" with pretty much no "here's how to fix it".
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby VelvetElvis » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:47 pm

He's drunk with the power of the embedded video.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Wind Swept » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:54 pm

That video is a lot of "here's what's wrong" with pretty much no "here's how to fix it".
I made no claims that the video would contain a solution. I just happen to agree with his assessment of many of the problems that exist in our education system.
He's drunk with the power of the embedded video.
Mad with power, maybe. I don't know about drunk.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby VelvetElvis » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:56 pm

Chris, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:05 pm

That video is a lot of "here's what's wrong" with pretty much no "here's how to fix it".
I made no claims that the video would contain a solution. I just happen to agree with his assessment of many of the problems that exist in our education system.
None of these observations are really new either, but I understand that you're just saying that you agree, not trying to present it as something profound. I also agree with much of it in theory, but in practice...

For instance, the criticism of grouping kids based on age. Grouping them based on ability with no regard for age would be subjective, impractical, and in my opinion just plain dumb. Lots of people have very lovely ideas about how education should be less, I don't know, rigid? But all you can really do is come up with the most efficient system that will hopefully work for most of the students most of the time. However, I think that a good place to start would be with more co-op and apprenticeship programs. They can do wonders for kids who don't exactly thrive in a traditional academic setting.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby VelvetElvis » Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:18 pm

That video is a lot of "here's what's wrong" with pretty much no "here's how to fix it".
I made no claims that the video would contain a solution. I just happen to agree with his assessment of many of the problems that exist in our education system.
Lots of people have very lovely ideas about how education should be less, I don't know, rigid? But all you can really do is come up with the most efficient system that will hopefully work for most of the students most of the time.
Ok, so I've been following this thread without much of value to add, but these words really hit home for me, because they are somethig I've been saying about (inpatient) mental healthcare.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:25 pm

World education rankings: which country does best at reading, maths and science?

I haven't really read how they came up with the ranking aside from the obvious manner of "testing", which we all know is far from perfect, but I'll admit that I'm proud to see Canada ranked so frickin' high.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby locke » Sun Sep 25, 2011 11:41 am

US reading was higher than I expected. Considering one of our political parties has declared war on science, our scores were much higher than I expected. Math was about where I expected all our scores to be.

An interesting factoid from last year's PISA/OECD that I remember was this: While the United States is pretty damn low overall, if you look at kids who immigrate from one country to another, the United States always has the second best outcome for kids from any other country. For example, South Korean kids, they get the best outcomes in the South Korean system, but they get the second best possible outcomes in the United States system. South Koreans in Japan would have very poor outcomes, for example. So the United States may not be great overall, but we are great at giving immigrants' kids the best opportunities in the world outside of their home country.
So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Gravity Defier » Sat Oct 01, 2011 1:24 am

Has this been mentioned here yet? If not, I'll just leave that for you fine folks to take a look at.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:12 am

I'll admit, I don't know much about No Child Left Behind aside from anecdotal criticisms. It does seem to me to be too dependent of standardized testing, which, while not useless, can't be the only measure of success in education.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Mich » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:21 am

The main irritation of it is what it boils down to: it relies on standardized testing scores to determine how much funding schools get. If a school has great testing scores, they get more funding. If they do poorly, they get less. This makes schools not just teach to the standardized test, but even encourage cheating. Otherwise they can possibly lose enough funding to shut down.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:24 am

Which brings us full circle back to the first story I posted above, about the massive cheating in Atlanta in order to receive more funding.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Mich » Sat Oct 01, 2011 1:12 pm

...right. I guess it was rather dumb of me to assume you didn't even know this basic explanation. But the fact that doing it either way, where low marks gets more funding to help raise the scores, or high marks gets more funding to keep them up, is bound to have people cheating to get money and people who deserve money not getting it means that this kind of one-policy system is marked for failure.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Noodle » Sat Oct 01, 2011 4:28 pm

I haven't posted in this thread yet, partially because I have strong opinions about education and I never felt like I had enough time available for the inevitable novel I would write. Suffice it to say I'm paying attention, and passing along these articles to my teacher wife.

Yes, my wife is a teacher in a public school in Wisconsin, where our governor has all but made that profession illegal. I digress.
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby locke » Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:59 am

Oh, Noodle, your wife is one of those. She's part of the problem. Her absurdly high salary and insanely padded benefits package is the reason the state can't balance a budget (a state that had a massive surplus before it was all vanished with a massive tax cut that created a deficit).

Teachers: the real enemy.
So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Bean_wannabe » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:59 am

I agree with locke - without teachers, the schools would do so much better!
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Syphon the Sun » Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:36 am

Rational people can agree to disagree about the Walker agenda. They cannot, however, believe that giving tax breaks to businesses on a per-job-created formula that kicks in during the next fiscal period somehow created a deficit in the previous fiscal period. Nor can they believe that a number somewhere between $67 million and $140 million (the projected loss in revenues caused by the cuts) is $3.6 billion (the projected deficit, most of which comes from shortfalls in Medcaid and the criminal justice system).

Satire only works when you actually know what you're talking about. ;)

And, for the record, I don't think that teacher unions should have the ability to choose things like insurance carriers and then choose themselves. (Surprise, after the law took effect and the health insurance company they owned actually had to compete with other companies, they had to reduce premiums or get lost.) To you, that means I hate education. To me, it just means that there's a fine line between supporting teachers and supporting teacher unions. (Indeed, I think letting unions self-deal at taxpayer expense is actually worse for education, because that money is spent on lining the pockets of union bosses and not on educating children.)
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby Noodle » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:46 am

Oh, Noodle, your wife is one of those. She's part of the problem. Her absurdly high salary and insanely padded benefits package is the reason the state can't balance a budget (a state that had a massive surplus before it was all vanished with a massive tax cut that created a deficit).

Teachers: the real enemy.
Exactly. In our little suburb of Milwaukee it's especially bad. We're in a very Republican area and I've heard stories of the way teachers are treated that just makes me sick. One of my wife's colleagues was at the grocery store when someone recognized her and came up behind her, stuck their hand in her back pocket and said something like "I'm just checking to see if my paycheck was in there."

I've heard teachers called lazy, greedy, and a whole host of other names. I had no idea that even a portion of the public really thought this about teachers. It makes me so sad because I watch her toil away in this mostly thankless job, working harder than anyone else I know in any field. She wakes up in the morning and is working, and when I come home from work, she's working, and when I go to bed, very often, she's working. She gets summers "off" but during that time she's taking classes in order to stay licensed, or working on her curriculum, or doing other work that is directly related to her job.
And, for the record, I don't think that teacher unions should have the ability to choose things like insurance carriers and then choose themselves. (Surprise, after the law took effect and the health insurance company they owned actually had to compete with other companies, they had to reduce premiums or get lost.) To you, that means I hate education. To me, it just means that there's a fine line between supporting teachers and supporting teacher unions. (Indeed, I think letting unions self-deal at taxpayer expense is actually worse for education, because that money is spent on lining the pockets of union bosses and not on educating children.)
The health insurance company owned by the teachers union was already in competition with other non union run health insurance companies. My wife's district for example, switched off of the union insurance provider a few years ago, BEFORE the Walker administration or before the new union rules. Several districts had moved away from the union insurance provider in the past, and many of those same districts moved BACK to the WEATrust insurance after they realized that they were in fact very competitive and provided an excellent balance of benefits to cost.

Make no mistake, Walker was not out to save a dime when he proposed the collective bargaining law. He wanted to weaken unions, because unions are primarily democratic supporters, and he wanted to pave the way for a republican win in the Wisconsin presidential race. This was admitted word for word. The teachers union agreed to absolutely every financial implication of the law and would have even agreed to more if they were consulted. However, Walker wanted to get rid of the unions, so he framed it as a fiscal argument.

The wording of this collective bargaining law has widespread implications that go beyond the teachers unions. A neighboring district recently made massive overhauls of their employee handbook including new things like dress code changes, removing coffee machines in the teacher lounges, adding additional hours to the teacher's schedules without pay, and eliminating prep time for teachers. The school board argued that they couldn't seek teacher input on the new handbook because that would violate the collective bargaining law. The changes were made without any teacher input until the night of the vote, and at that point it was too late to make substantive changes to the handbook. I ask, how does requiring teachers to wear skirts that go below the knee save the district or the taxpayers any money?
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Re: We don't need no Education (thread)

Postby neo-dragon » Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:10 pm

Ladies and gentlemen, I am scared.

I am quite honestly afraid of what will happen in this Thursday's provincial election, and you have to know me pretty well to understand how significant that is. I don't have a political bone in my body. I seldom bother to vote because I'm usually pretty dang indifferent about who wins.

This time, not so much. If a particular party wins this election they will almost certainly seriously mess with public education in ways which will if not harm, certainly not help students, and will DEFINITELY harm teachers. We're talking lower pay, increased workload, and potentially hundreds or thousands of lay-offs. It could mean a return to what teachers who have been in the profession long enough to have experienced this before refer to as "The Dark Years", where colleagues lost their jobs, and those who didn't found themselves bereft of much of what made those jobs enjoyable.

For me personally, it would likely mean losing any chance for the foreseeable future of achieving the sort of job security that I have worked tirelessly to achieve and has literally been my number one goal in life for the last five years.

Just thought I'd share.
"Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic."
- Frank Herbert's 'Dune'


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