Not Hot for Teachers

Why an "instructionist" approach to school reform won't help poor kids

In a Winter 2008 City Journal essay, "School Choice Isn't Enough," the Manhattan Institute's Sol Stern, a well-known critic of progressive education, former editor of the radical left magazine Ramparts, and previously a strong supporter of school choice, says that school vouchers are a failed experiment and competition has not led to public school improvement.

He argues that the school choice movement needs "a realistic Plan B for the millions of urban students who will remain stuck in terrible public schools?" His suggestion is to focus on instructional reform as the best way to improve public schools for the urban poor. This is significant to the school choice fight because Stern is abandoning a central theme of the choice movement: "Competition lifts all boats."

Instead, Stern offers us a vision of centralized top-down content management as the next panacea for education reform. Stern insists that an "instructionist" approach, which focuses on content standards and accountability, is a better route to school reform.

Stern cites Massachusetts as an exemplary example for other states to follow. He credits "instructionists" that "pushed the state's board of education to mandate a rigorous curriculum for all grades, created demanding tests linked to the curriculum standards, and insisted that all high school graduates pass a comprehensive exit exam," with much of the student achievement success in Massachusetts.

Stern talks up the "Massachusetts miracle," where the state scored first in the nation in the latest 4th and 8th grade math and reading on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), the nation's report card for student achievement and standardized benchmark for every state. The state's average scores on the NAEP have also improved at far higher rates than most other states. However, there is a more nuanced explanation for the uptick in student achievement in Massachusetts. We might ask, "Miracle for which students?"

To be sure, having the highest scores in the nation and highest gains on the NAEP, as Massachusetts does, is an admirable achievement. For a fuller picture of what is happening, however, Education Week's 2008 Quality Counts report for Massachusetts offers more context. Quality Counts notes Massachusetts ranks very low in terms of progress on the student achievement gap between low-income and higher income students. Massachusetts ranks 46th and 50th for the poverty gap—the difference in NAEP scores between students eligible for the free-lunch program and non-eligible students. In 4th grade NAEP reading scores, for example, Massachusetts has a 29.1 point gap compared with the national average of 26.8 points. In fact, the reading gap in Massachusetts has grown by almost 3 points between 2003 and 2007 on the NAEP. For 8th grade NAEP math scores, the state has a 31.4 gap compared to the 26 point national average.

In Massachusetts, middle class and wealthy children have clearly benefited from a focus on content and standards. However, it is less clear how this curricular focus has benefited the most disadvantaged students in the state, who are now being left even further behind.

Other data underscore Massachusetts' ongoing struggle with the most challenging students. According to Standard & Poor's, Boston's 2007 reading proficiency scores on state standardized tests show that white students in Boston scored 67 percent proficient while black students scored 35 percent proficient, Hispanic students scored 35 percent proficient, and economically disadvantaged students scored 37 percent proficient. Every disadvantaged group in Boston has a larger achievement gap in 2007 than in 2004. Across the state the gap is similar. Seventy-six percent of non-disadvantaged students are proficient in reading while 42 percent of economically disadvantaged students are proficient—a 34 point gap, two points larger than in 2004. For low-income and disadvantaged students, then, Massachusetts' instructional reforms have proven far less than miraculous.

A second important point about Stern's advocacy for instructional reform is that other states that have undertaken similar efforts have not seen a Massachusetts-style pay-off in test scores. If content-based curriculum were a panacea, California and Indiana should, like the Bay State, be showing much larger gains on the NAEP. The 2008 Quality Counts report gives Indiana and California an "A" on standards and accountability. Both these states have had a very intensive curriculum and standards-based approach, very similar to Massachusetts, over the last decade.

Yet this focus on strong content and accountability has not translated into large student achievement gains. Indiana has produced a respectable seven-point gain in 4th grade math on the NAEP between 2003 and 2007. However, reading scores have remained flat. And like Massachusetts, Indiana's poverty gap remains large with higher-income students being largely responsible for any gains.

Since Indiana ranks first in the nation in terms of content standards, we should expect to see a stronger effect on student achievement for disadvantaged students as well as advantaged ones. In urban cities in Indiana such as Indianapolis, the achievement gap has widened not narrowed in recent years. Beating the Odds, a May 2007 report by the Council of the Great City Schools, details how urban school districts have closed their achievement gaps in the past six years. In Indianapolis, the most disadvantaged students have lost ground since 2001. The achievement gap in reading on the I-Step for low-income 8th graders was 36 points in 2001; five years later it had grown to 45 points. About 75 percent of white students passed the English portion of the I-Step exam in 2006, compared with 48 percent of black students and 51 percent of Hispanic students.

In California, content standards and standards-based reform have had essentially no effect. California ranks near the bottom, 45th and 48th in 4th grade reading and math on the NAEP. The Quality Counts report ranks California 49th in terms of the "poverty gap" with a 30 point gap in 4th grade reading scores between low and high income students. The fact that California and Massachusetts rank similarly, 49th and 50th respectively, should give everyone pushing an "instructionist approach" pause, considering the demographic differences between the two states. Quality Counts ranks Massachusetts first on their "chance for success" index which includes variables like family income, parental education level, and parental employment. Massachusetts ranks 5th in the nation in terms of family income with 75 percent of parents earning more than 200 percent of the poverty level, while California ranks 39th. Massachusetts also ranks number one in the nation in terms of parent education with more than 60 percent of parents earning a college degree. In California only 38 percent of parents make it through college. The point of all this is that Massachusetts, a high income state, where 90 percent of parents are fluent in English, and 60 percent are college educated has just as large of an achievement gap as California which ranks 51st in terms of English fluency for parents, and 39th in terms of parent education. An "instructionist" approach has not closed the achievement gap in either state.

The bottom line is that content-based reform has not been a panacea in California or Indiana or even Massachusetts. Students with wealthier and higher-educated parents are thriving under a strong standards-based regiment. But content standards have had little impact on one of the most intractable of education dilemmas. It has not closed the achievement gap between lower and higher income students, where not even 50 percent of these students score proficient in reading or math.

That's the major reason why school reformers shouldn't place too many eggs in the "instructionist" basket. Families still need school choice. Public schools, especially in low-performing urban districts, still need competition, which gives students a right of exit to higher performing schools and gives public schools an incentive to improve in order to keep students enrolled.

Stern is too quick to dismiss the impact of school choice on urban school districts. Stern's best case for dismissing the effects of school choice on public schools is Milwaukee, where public schools face competition from vouchers and charter schools. Yet in Milwaukee, test scores have been slowly moving up in every grade since 2004. Reading proficiency for all students is up by seven points on state tests since 2004. It is up by six points for blacks, eight points for Hispanics, and up by seven points for economically disadvantaged students. In addition, the achievement gap has been shrinking. For example, Hispanics have closed the achievement gap in reading proficiency by 10 points with their white counterparts since 2004. While perhaps not revolutionary change, Milwaukee's data do not seem enough to throw in the towel on the entire school choice movement.

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  • ||

    Snell keeps repeating that there is an "achievement gap" between poor and rich students in Massachusetts, but only provides absolute figures for rich students and for overall figures.

    So, are the low-income school districts improving? Not improving? Or what?

    If they are improving but more slowly than the rest of the state, that might suggest one set o solutions, while if the entirety of the improvement is coming in the middle and top income tiers, that might suggest a different set of solutions.

  • New World Dan||

    vouchers are a failed experiment? Where have they really been implemented in a really useful manner?

  • ||

    If the better students become even better in absolute terms, then this is an improvement. Focusing on the "achievment GAP" is a pseudo-Marxist faux-egalitarianism. If some magical Golf Club improved the average golfer by 6 holes and Tiger Woods by 9 holes, the new Golf Club is an improvement regardless of whether the "gap" narrowed.


    Why should one expect kids with low IQ (whatever IQ really is), no parental support, ghetto culture, and no particular motivation to do well regardless of choice, cirriculum, discipline, or school spending? Choice, better teachers, and better ciriculla will help those with ability and motivation - but if ability and motivation is lacking, it is absurd to think that any of these are panaceas. So I do not understand the focusing on the "gap" - of course there is going to be a gap.

  • ||

    Stern can't be painted as some big government loving captured by teachers unions tool...It's interesting that he concludes the voucher movement is a failed experiment, as I've seen little around here but rosy hymns to its obvious success. Stern urges proponents to notice the facts on the ground, but for those (and I submit that certainly this is not all nor maybe most) libertarians for whom the ideology is more akin to a religion, what use are facts on the ground? I mean, school choice involves markets, which NEVER fail, right? How could they NOT work?. Any "facts on the ground" that allude otherwise must be b.s., deceptive, or just in need of more nuanced examination...

    As to Stern's article, I note this selection:
    "Starting in the 1980s, major empirical studies by sociologist James Coleman and other scholars showed that urban Catholic schools were better than public schools at educating the poor, despite spending far less per student."

    I don't remember this being what Coleman found (my undergrad sociology course was way back I admit). I thought that he found these differences between parochial schools and public ones, but his biggest finding was that family variables explained most differential outcomes. But even if true, yes Catholic schools may have excellent instruction, but part of that instruction is in how to be a good Catholic. And there is this 1st Amendment thing about me having to pay for that...

  • ||

    Recently in Newsday, the Superintendent of Riverhead, NY, schools wrote a letter to the editor lamenting all the money that was "wasted" (I'm fairly certain she didn't see the irony) at the charter school that failed in increasing test scores. But that is the beauty of the charter system. If the charter school fails, market forces will shut its doors. What recourse is there when the public school fails?

  • ||

    1 word:

    Homeschool

  • ||

    Government schools fail largely because they are government schools. Those citizen factory/prisons are not in the teaching business, contrary to popular belief.

  • ||

    I've seen a number of private schools up close. They really don't differ significantly from public schools. Some include religious instruction, some are financially exclusive, some are dumping grounds for kids that have had problems in the public schools. None of the ones I've seen really offer alternative educational methods; they model themselves after the public schools. Often they employ former public-school teachers who bring the same attitudes and mind-set into the private sector.
    I think that, so long as todays parents continue in the same soccer-mom lifestyle stressing after-school activities and socialization over disciplined learning, nothing will improve, even if all the schools were privatized. Given a choice between a school with a winning athletic program and a school with high scholastic standards, the one that shows up on the sports pages of the local paper wins.

  • Sam Grove||

    For parents that give a damn: homeschool.

  • ||

    Mrs. sixstring and I thought about home schooling, but we like paychecks better. We leave it to the Catholics and they are doing a fine job.

  • ||

    "In Massachusetts, middle class and wealthy children have clearly benefited from a focus on content and standards. However, it is less clear how this curricular focus has benefited the most disadvantaged students in the state, who are now being left even further behind."

    Isn't improved content and standards the whole end that school chose is supposed to achieve? If your local school has lousy content and no standards, you should be free to go to a school that does. If content and standards doesn't benefit poor kids what the hell would?

    The elephant in the room that Reason is too PC to talk about is culture. You can go to any school in the country no matter how bad and you will find smart kids who are doing well. If the child and the parents don't value and encourage education, it doesn't matter how much choice you provide them, it won't do any good. Everyone loves to talk about education and how important it is. They are certainly willing to write checks to support it. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of actually making your kids work hard and achieve something, a lot fewer people are interested. In some ways the choice people are as bad as the teachers unions. The choice people believe that if we just let the market work children and parents who don't care enough to work hard now will somehow magically start to. Teachers' unions think the same thing only with them it is just a few more billion for the education racket. Our schools are only as good as the society that makes them. As a society, we really don't like to work very hard or learn very much. No amount of market reforms or government action is going to change that.

  • Paul||

    He credits "instructionists" that "pushed the state's board of education to mandate a rigorous curriculum for all grades, created demanding tests linked to the curriculum standards, and insisted that all high school graduates pass a comprehensive exit exam," with much of the student achievement success in Massachusetts.



    Serious question: Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like NCLB?

  • ||

    Paul -- not just you.

  • ||

    I think these vouchers they have are a terible idea, and are likely unconstitutional two because thay may result in taxes going to a religious school which is against the first amendment. The first amendment requires schools to be atheist. The problem is that they drain money away from the public schools because for each student that gets a voucher the money doesn't go to the public school which is underfunded and it needs more money. If parents want to spend their own money for private school it is OK, but their taxes they pay should go to the public school, because just because child doesn't go to the public school, it is unfair for the public school not get the money. Homeschooling is a bad idea and should be ilegal, we don't allow non licensed doctors to practice medicine, we shouldn't allow non licensed teachers what have taken the reqisite education courses to teach the student.

  • ||

    The wife and I homeschooled our daughter all through elementary and part way through middle school. Eventually, the curriculum demands became too much for us and she finished off her middle school at a private school, only to attend public high school. She found the public school to have no challenge at all. Makes me wish we attempted to homeschool her longer.

  • ||

    A dedicated teacher -- please tell me that post was satire.

  • ||

    Here is my idea for reforming education. Write a really difficult test that covers a variety of subjects like say English, history geography, algebra, geometry, biology, and chemistry. Make the test cover all of those subjects at a solid high school level. A level at which in an ideal world all of our high school graduates would be able to pass. Then administer the test once a year to every 18 year old who wants to take it. Everyone who passes it gets a federal GED or stamp on their diploma saying they passed it and $10,000 cash.

    You then let personal incentives work their magic. Kids who otherwise just slide through to get meaningless diplomas would actually start studying in order to get the money. Employers and colleges who have no way of knowing if a high school degree means anything would be able to tell if the applicant knows anything by whether they passed the test. Parents who have no idea how to judge schools, could judge them based on the pass fail rate of students. The whole system would get a needed kick in the ass and refocus on teaching. If the public schools couldn't do it, private schools would arise. Certainly tutoring and prep services for the test would arise to fill in the gaps not provided by schools. Charities could provide free services to poor kids from lousy schools. Poor kids who worked hard and passed the test would get ten grand and a meaningful diploma to start life with. It would have any number of unforeseen positive effects on the culture and commitment to learning in this country.

    The only problem would be writing the test and keeping it hard and not dumbing it down once a large number of people failed it. My fear would be that over time they would dumb the test down in the name of fairness and it would turn into a welfare program for high school students.

  • Robert||

    I think that, so long as todays parents continue in the same soccer-mom lifestyle stressing after-school activities and socialization over disciplined learning, nothing will improve,


    What's the object of socializ'n? Is it popularity? Then socializ'n is 0-sum, because one's popularity can come only at the expense of another's, while learning is unlimited.

    Or does socializ'n have another goal?

  • ||

    I've taught in California Public Schools for 15 years. I've taught in both academically poor performing and high performing schools.

    Here are some real observations.

    First. At one high performing school the "achievement gap" between white and non-white students was real and significant. That being said our disadvantaged students of similar ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic group did much better on average than those at low performing schools in our district. Simply put our black kids on average did better than black kids at other schools. Yet, our "Gap" was higher than the district average. Thus, whenever we had a staff meeting to discuss the gap, I would always argue that the simplest solution was to make the white kids dumber, by not actually teaching them. Needless to say the Principal failed to see the humor in my comments.

    Second. No one seems to ever mention the the short school year in the US. Germany and Japan both average 220-240 days per year. Thus by the time a Japanese student reaches eighth grade they have had at leas one full year more instruction. In my opinion there is a unwritten conspiracy between conservatives and liberals over the school year. Conservatives do not want to increase the school year because of cost, while teachers unions fight increasing the school year because it would shorten our summer vacation.

    Third. Home schooling, If I were a college educated individual with both the time and resources to teach a child well at home than home schooling might be a viable option. Yet, for the students who are failing they nearly always come from illiterate homes. Thus, homeschooling is not a viable option for them.

    Fourth. School choice, unlike the stereotype of every school teacher being against school choice, I am actually in favor of it. I actually believe that having schools compete for the best students is a good thing. Yet, I am against giving wealthy parents who would send their child to an elite private school yet another tax cut. Thus, I would structure a school of choice program that would actually force public schools to compete against one another. And, I would give vouchers to poor students who are forced to go to failing schools.

    Fifth. Poor Teachers. School districts need to play hardball with the unions. I am tired of my union protecting bad teachers. Yet, the district gives in to union demands about "due process" and thus makes it nearly impossible to fire incompetent teachers. C'mon, districts fight the good fight and stand up for the ability to fire some dead weight. The public would actually support you on this, in the event of a strike, what is the teahers union going to tell the public?

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • Robert||

    The wife and I homeschooled our daughter all through elementary and part way through middle school. Eventually, the curriculum demands became too much for us and she finished off her middle school at a private school, only to attend public high school. She found the public school to have no challenge at all. Makes me wish we attempted to homeschool her longer.


    Were the curriculum demands somehoe difficult for you to teach, but easy for them to teach?

  • ||

    Joe,

    Isn't part of the problem that administrators who run the schools are former teachers who come from the education establishment? It is almost as if the teachers' unions are negotiating with themselves.

  • Rhywun||

    As a society, we really don't like to work very hard or learn very much.

    I agree. The problem is much deeper than almost anyone is willing to admit.

    PS. I had a fantastic public school education in a top "inner city" school. I took 10 AP classes. I had dedicated teachers. This is just to counteract the silly, extremist "child prison" nonsense that fills up education threads around here. Good schools are possible in the current system. There could be more of them, of course.

  • Robert||

    No one seems to ever mention the the short school year in the US. Germany and Japan both average 220-240 days per year.


    Then they're wasting even more time than in the USA. Throughout my years at P.S. 108 (thru 6th grade), I had the very strong impression that we killed a lot of time, maybe as much as half the total hours. I think we could shorten the elementary school hours and/or year and get more done.

  • ||

    Rhywun,

    I went to a pretty average public school and got a great education. I have friends who went to big money boarding schools and got lousy educations. It wasn't because the schools were bad. The high end schools were fantastic. It was because my friends were from screwed up homes and were more interested in dropping acid than studying. Did those schools fail my friends? I think not.

  • Paul||

    I think these vouchers they have are a terible idea, and are likely unconstitutional two because thay may result in taxes going to a religious school which is against the first amendment.

    I really don't think this renders it 'unconstitutional'. Originally, the intent of the separation of church and state was specifically included in the constitution to protect religious institutions from the state, not the other way around. But putting that technicality aside, I'm not sure there's any provision which says that a dollar of tax money can never be directed towards anything that may have a religious component. Secondly, the fact that the vouchers *might* be used for a religious school is a pretty thin argument. They also *might not* be used for a religious school. And even if you found a sympathetic ear on the Supreme Court, I'm sure that the voucher laws could be changed so that the vouchers would simply be void for any religious school or institution, leaving people able to use them for non-religious private schools.

    The first amendment requires schools to be atheist.

    It does not in any way whatsoever.

    The problem is that they drain money away from the public schools because for each student that gets a voucher the money doesn't go to the public school which is underfunded and it needs more money.

    So you say. If a student takes up resources in a school to be there, be taught, have classroom space etc., then removing that child from the school frees up some resources (read: money). Now, one can argue how much money is saved by removing the child, and if the value of that voucher eclipses the amount of money saved by the school by not having said student. I have no idea what and how much disparity there may be.

    Homeschooling is a bad idea and should be ilegal, we don't allow non licensed doctors to practice medicine, we shouldn't allow non licensed teachers what have taken the reqisite education courses to teach the student.

    I disagree. Homeschoolers have to meet certain standards and in the end, the homeschooled student should have to pass the same standardized tests the public school students have to pass. If they're passing, this, to me, simply represents a threat to a protected and entrenched constituency: public school teachers.

    We can argue about the requirements for homeschoolers, but to dismiss the concept out of hand merely because they're not "licensed" is a non-starter. Teachers are not doctors and therefore the comparison isn't apt.

  • ||

    OK, "Not Hot for Teachers" is way ahead in Reason's annual "Most Gratuitous Use of Sex" derby. Of course, it's only February.

  • ||

    School vouchers are just a movement from the swamps to the wet lands. High ground will be reached when government is completely out of the education business.

  • ||

    Homeschooling is a bad idea and should be ilegal, we don't allow non licensed doctors to practice medicine, we shouldn't allow non licensed teachers what have taken the reqisite education courses to teach the student.

    Your name isn't Margaret Boyce(school board member) is it?:


    We don't allow people to play doctor or nurse without a license, nor can one play lawyer without passing some rather rigorous tests. But today, anyone who wants to "play school" can do so, regardless of their educational background. Recently, some parents have been jailed for withholding medical treatment for their children, yet we are almost making heroes of these parents who do the same with their children's education.


    I hate school administrators.

  • ||

    That last quote is from:

    http://www.hslda.org/hs/state/mi/200409230.asp

  • ||

    John,

    I see your point and there is a bit of truth in it. Yes, most administrators come from the ranks of teachers, yet I think the general impression of teachers as this monolithic group of individuals fails to see the true diversity.

    Believe it or not many teachers are Republican and conservative. Why there are even a few libertarians. The same is true for administrators, some are great, they actually care about the kids learning. Others are simply interested in maintaining some semblance of order.

    Gene,

    I am about to insult you and your daughter. Simply put, if your daughter was not challenged in high school it is her and your fault. Assuming your kid went to a relatively large urban or suburban school the diversity of classes available is simply staggering.

    A student attending most schools has the opportunity to leave high school with as many as thirty college units. Here is a list of high level courses that were available to me in 1986, followed by a list available to students today.


    When I was in High School, (that I can remember).
    AP US history
    AP English
    AP Government
    AP Calculus
    AP Spanish

    Available today:
    AP US history
    AP English
    AP Government
    AP Art History
    AP World History
    AP Modern European History
    AP Calculous, other schools in my district offer German, Russian, Chinese
    AP Spanish
    AP Economics
    AP Psychology
    AP Chemistry
    AP Physics

    Each of those courses is TOUGH, they are at the college level and the students have to take a test that is quite difficult. I have a Masters Degree in History and have taken practice AP history tests as a way of preparing to teach the various AP history courses, It is a challenging test that even today, if I were to take it for real would have to prepare for.

    Simply put, high school is what you make of it. At the high school I teach at, we graduate students that are very smart and have used their smarts and been challenged. Yet, at the same time, we've graduated intelligent students who never took a class that challenged them. I've seen numerous students coast through my regular history classes easily earning an A. When asked why they didn't take the tougher course they had one of two answers. 1) I'm already taking 1,2 or 3 AP and can't take the strain, or 2) I don't want to work that hard.

    Now your daughter may have gone to a rural school were these courses were simply unavailable, or your daughter snowed you and failed to tell you these courses were available and just coasted along.

    Or, your daughter did take five or ten AP courses and aced the exams and is simply brilliant. If that is the case than NO high school would have been challenging.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • ||

    I actually believe that having schools compete for the best students is a good thing. -Joe Dokes

    I agree completely; however, one of the first arguments against vouchers, or charter schools, or any form of competitive/ selective enrollment scheme one generally hears is how "cherry-picking" students is evil.

    Experience, and informal research amongst my teacher acquaintances leads me to believe that, in any typical classroom of twenty-five students, judiciously expunging three of them will greatly enhance the progress of the remainder. In the olden times, these (most likely) lads would be packed off to the blacksmith shop to operate the bellows and learn a useful trade.

  • New World Dan||

    Paul,

    Do not feed the trolls.

  • Paul||

    New World Dan

    Word. But in his defense, my troll spidey senses really aren't going off. He seems legitimately confrused.

    But I've been wrong before...

    Once...

    Maybe...

  • ||

    we shouldn't allow non licensed teachers what have taken the reqisite education courses to teach the student.

    "what have taken"!?!?

    LMAO! Remember folks, this is from "a dedicated teacher" who thinks you are not competent to teach your own kids.

  • ||

    stupid me, with all those typos from "a dedicated teacher" i should have smelled troll right away...

  • Paul||

    stupid me, with all those typos from "a dedicated teacher" i should have smelled troll right away...

    Shane, I know this is going to come off cynical, but it was the typos that made me believe that this wasn't a troll.

  • ||

    This is just to counteract the silly, extremist "child prison" nonsense

    "child prison" seems a reasonable description to me. Tax payer supported, compulsory attendance, seperation from family, dress codes, restricted civil liberties, illicit drugs prohibited yet widely available, 13 year terms, gangs, a cafeteria, a nurse, and a warden(they call him principal) and now with guards(sometimes armed) and metal detectors, also coming soon biometric scanners and rfid tags.

    Sounds an awful lot like "prison for kids" to me.

  • ||

    Were the curriculum demands somehoe difficult for you to teach, but easy for them to teach?

    Education changes when you leave grade school.

    Some classes requires resources you just don't have at home - I'm thinking mainly science here.

    Then there's the extra-curricular stuff, which done right can be a huge boon - drama, debate, even (shudder) sports.

    And there are more and more classes that really require specialized knowledge. I would bet that most people posting here could do a reasonable job of teaching a 6th or 7th grade math class with some effort, but very few could teach calculus.

  • ||

    I, too, am a teacher.

    My major opinion of the topic so far is that "A dedicated teacher" really needs to learn how to proofread.

    I agree with Joe on every topic except for maybe the third, the length of the school year isn't so important in my view, when I taught high school (I now teacher privately) I never had a problem with getting the curriculum in with a short year, I think teacher effort and training comes in handy there.

    I strongly agree with his fifth statement. I've encountered a lot of teachers that shouldn't be teachers for many many reasons. After 3 to 5 years of teaching, teacher "burn out" becomes a major issue that some teachers never recover from. A lot of those teachers go on teaching nonetheless because it's the only thing that they can do for a living and there's no way to fire them.

  • Vermont Gun Owner||

    Or, your daughter did take five or ten AP courses and aced the exams and is simply brilliant. If that is the case than NO high school would have been challenging.

    I'm glad you added that part in, or I was going to have to argue with you. Now I just have to correct you.

    A student not being challenged can be the fault of the fault of the school. AP classes are not that hard. I was taking 5 my senior year and still had less than 90 minutes of homework a week. They wouldn't let me take any more, because they purposely scheduled them at the same time to prevent students from "taking too many" (in order to get both AP Chem and AP Phys, I had to take Chem as an independent study). Plus, I wasn't able to take AP Calculus until senior year because they demanded I go through their exact routine, and refused to let me test into a higher year of math.

    I wasn't challenged at this high school at all, and they could have made some easy changes that would have made it more difficult for me. Instead, I just got a job and worked 20 hours a week, never did any homework, and still graduated with honors.

  • ||

    oh, and even prisons have weight rooms and libraries, so the extra curricular activities doesn't make the institution any less repulsive to me. Besides, homeschoolers have their own sports leagues now:

    homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/explore/sportsprograms.htm

    www.hspn.net/

    homeschooling.about.com/od/homeschoolsports/Homeschool_Sports_Programs.htm -

    www.hslda.org/docs/hshb/53/hshbwk7.asp

    and calculus? no prob:

    Calculus Without Tears: Lesson Sheets for Learning Calculus for Students from the 4th Grade Up http://www.eclectichomeschool.org/reviews/individual_review2.asp?revid=2126

    This is the Information Age, we don't need brick buildings or bureaucrats.

  • ||

    It seems nearly imposible to significantly improve schooling outcomes significantly. In fact it amazes me how the unschoolers make it appear that our schools do not even beat minimal schooling by a significant margin.

    So perhaps the goals of vouchers should be parent satisfaction and keeping costs down.

  • ||

    (I now teacher privately)

    (!)

  • ||

    Vermont Gun Owner,

    I would say that you represent a very small but real minority. Over the years, I've met a small but significant students that were too smart for high school. I've pulled many a student aside and said, "You're too smart for this place, finish out the year, graduate and never look back." The pettiness of the rules, the lack of true intellectual discourse can be harmful to a small subset of the high school population. (For those of you who would argue that we should a) change the rules or b) increase the level of discourse please keep the following things in mind: 1) Most (90%) of the students cannot handle the level of freedom that this small minority would need in order for school to be a place of intellectual curiosity. 2) Unfortunately a school just doesn't have the resources to make school an intellectual smorgasbord necessary to keep these students interested as it would require class sizes near the single digit and teachers with advanced degrees in the subjects they teach.

    In some ways these students should drop out and enroll at a community college, yet I suspect only a small percentage would actually be successful.

    That being said, I get tired of hearing parents say, "My kid failed because he was bored." Most of the time I call bullshit on that. The same parent who says that is too dim to realize what a dip stick their kid is. The above comment about the kid too smart for high school really only represents about 2% to 5% of the population.

    Regards

    Joe Dokes

  • the innominate one||

    Paul | February 6, 2008, 1:21pm | #

    ...Originally, the intent of the separation of church and state was specifically included in the constitution to protect religious institutions from the state, not the other way around...


    You can't have one without the other.

  • ||

    Stern cites Massachusetts as an exemplary example for other states to follow.

    Well, of course it's an exemplary example. All examples are definitionally exemplary since "exemplary" is simply the adjectival form of the noun "example."

    And the qualifications for director of educational policy at Reason are what, exactly?

  • Paul||

    You can't have one without the other.

    Well, yes, back in the days when you left your lands either to the king, or the church...I imagine that everyone's chocolate was getting mixed into everyone elses peanut butter.

  • Paul||

    Education changes when you leave grade school.

    Some classes requires resources you just don't have at home - I'm thinking mainly science here.


    Honestly, RC, I don't know how many homeschoolers continue after middle-school. I'm not denying they do continue, it's just not the image I conjure when I think of homeschoolers. I'm mostly visualizing elementary to middle-school kids, and then seeing them return to public school for high school, due to the reasons you state above.

  • ||

    "what have taken"!?!?

    LMAO! Remember folks, this is from "a dedicated teacher" who thinks you are not competent to teach your own kids.


    Not to defend the rest of the poorly written claptrap, but using "what" as a conjunction in place of "that" is commonplace in parts of the country and that usage can be found in most dictionaries.

  • ||

    The above comment about the kid too smart for high school really only represents about 2% to 5% of the population.

    Approximately the same percentage of libertarians as well.

    Coincidence? I think not!

  • Sam Grove||

    There are a number of reasons parents remove their children from school. A fairly common one is the over-diagnosis of ADD and the school officials' insistence on drugging kids. Yes, I know it is helpful in some cases.

    By far the major reason, I suspect, is developmental issues.

    Government (and many private) schools segregate children by age and not by development. Children develop intellectually at different rates and vary in their capacity and interests at any particular age. This can lead to the affixing of emotionally injurious 'labels' that actually hinder further development.

  • Jennifer||

    Government (and many private) schools segregate children by age and not by development. Children develop intellectually at different rates and vary in their capacity and interests at any particular age.

    Age segregation continues to be one the the single stupidest school policies in existence (and I AM keeping "zero tolerance" in mind). I'm still annoyed by the memory of the time my second or third-grade teacher made me put away the copy of Cosmos I was reading, because it was time for my "The fat cat sat on the flat mat" reading lesson.

  • ||

    School vouchers have been used in Sweden for years. It represents a reasonably good example of a successful implementation of the system.

    The overall results have been good for students that would have otherwise been forced to attend schools closest to them. Overall the performance of both publically and privately run schools in municipalities with a lot of school choice has improved.

  • Mad Max||

    In defense of the govt schools, I believe that they may be responding quite rationally to incentives.

    The idea that the existence of a voucher program creates an incentive for govt schools to improve has a flaw. Imagine that, after the adoption of a voucher program (or tax-credit program, etc), the govt schools showed educational improvements. The result would be praise for voucher programs and demands that those programs be increased, leading to "diversion of money from our public schools."

    On the other hand, if the public schools *fail* to improve despite the competitive pressures of vouchers, etc., then people like Stern will cite this as evidence that vouchers have failed. The voucher programs will be shut down or curtailed, and the money that would otherwise have gone on vouchers will go to the govt schools instead.

    From the "incentive" point of view, then, what reason do the govt schools, as rational actors, have to improve?

  • ||

    "1 word:

    Homeschool"

    That works fine for educated parents who care about their children.

    What about the children whose parents apparently can't even be bothered to feed them properly?

  • Lyn||

    I interpret the situation differently. As for the achievement gap, it's not about wealth. It's about class. There are public school systems in this country that no matter how much money they receive their students will fail. Schools do not fail these students. Instead, these students fail to take advantage of the generous opportunities provided to them. There is a permanent underclass in the US that just will not prosper. I appreciate the sincerity that some of the teachers and administrators exhibit in these school systems, but their efforts are wasted.

    And I can't stand the use of the word "disadvantaged." The reality is that we are not all equal and should not expect equal outcomes. Don't begrudge the middle and upper classes for their achievements. Even if they had less money, they are a better class of students and would continue to thrive by their efforts.

  • ||

    There are a couple of problems with the voucher system and I don't see the proponents of the system addressing them:

    First problem: What if a school turns away 'dumb' students to make sure its reputation remains high and vouchers keep coming? What will the dumb students do? There are more or less direct ways for a school doing this. For example location.

    Second problem: What if some parents don't care or are unable to make the right choice? Condemn their kids too instead of trying to repair this didadvantage?

  • ||

    Well, Panos, you certainly have hit the key nails on their heads!

    Imagine how horrible things would be if schools had entrance requirements! Why, grammar schools would be just like colleges-- the top students would go to the grade-school equivalent of Stanford or Caltech and the middling students would go to somplace like UCLA and the not-so-bright students would go to the likes of Cal State LA or Loyola! What could be more dreadful than each student going to a school with other students of similar ability?

    Of course it would also be horrible if some parents were too stupid to choose the right schools for their children! It's not as if parents that stupid could make other poor choices for their children, dressing them in funny clothes or feeding them too much junk food or letting them play with a minibike when they're only four years old or anything like that! No, stupid parents would only be stupid about school choice. Why they might not even sign their kids of for school at all! Why should they, when those kids can pick lettuce or peaches or whatever is in season just like their parents!

  • ||

    Its funny. Whenever I read opinions on improving education, they always point in every possible direction. As a teacher, the greatest challenge I face is the home life of a student. We cannot undo damage that begins at home. Neglect, apathy, and permissiveness is a serious problem at the high school level. Those problems began years earlier at home. Of course, the parents I am describing would never read this website. There is a pretty good chance they don't read at all. The key to education has not changed. Parental involvement
    has changed. Most parents have never spoken to me. They all have my phone number and e-mail address. They simply don't care. If you are

  • ||

    Zilbrachen,

    Indeed it would be horrible, both for society and for themselves. While one can judge somebody's abilities at 17 one can not do so at 5. Several talented people would be wasted and others that could improve wouldn't. Education can help give opportunities to people that otherwise would have no hope because of their background.

  • Nike Dunk Low||

    is good

  • sacs birkin hermes||

    Students with wealthier and higher-educated parents are thriving under a strong standards-based regiment.

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