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Quote of the day...(18 posts)

Quote of the day...Matno
Jul 7, 2003 1:20 PM
This one pretty much says it all about the politics of public education:

"The Education Department of the State of New York will begin offering standardized math tests that every student can pass. The decision follows the resignation of the state's testing director who lost her job after 63% of New York student's failed the Math A Regents exam. 'Clearly, it is a disservice to public schools to give tests whose results imply students aren't learning essential skills,' said an unnamed spokesman for the New York Board of Regents. 'Now that the state's testing director is gone, we can offer an exam that more accurately reflects what students are really learning.' Here's a sample question from the new test: 'New York citizens contribute $43.8 million per year to the state department of education. Yet 63% of students failed the Regent's math exam. If "x" equals the amount of money taxpayers in other states contribute to New York state through the Federal Department of Education, how much does "x" need to be in order to reduce the math test failure rate to 50%?' Answer: Any number greater than $7 billion will be considered correct." --Scott Ott

As a resident of New York City, I can attest to the fact that there are both good and bad public schools here. What makes some great and others dismal I don't know, but the dismal schools far outnumber the good ones. A 63% failure rate on a standardized test is actually surprisingly low. I'm sure that percentage is somewhat higher here in the Bronx...

My personal opinion on school funding (ignoring the fact that I don't agree with federal funding in the first place) is that almost all of the money we throw at schools ought to go toward teachers' salaries. Nothing will improve the quality of education more than improving the quality of the teachers, and that's not going to happen until the pay is high enough to attract better teachers than we have now.

The other thing we need to get away from is this whole concept of not wanting to make students feel bad about themselves. In theory, it's a nice thought. In reality, it has been carried WAY too far, and students are no longer rewarded for intelligence, but rather for just being "special," "unique," "creative," etc. Talk about worthless. I guess in a lot of ways, it ties into the quality of the teachers, since the new standards of teaching require much less effort and caring on the part of the teachers.
Teacher's salaries.Spoke Wrench
Jul 7, 2003 1:27 PM
It seems to me that your assumption is that better salaries will attract better teachers. I think that unless some other change is made at the same time, we will just pay higher salaries for the same teachers we have now and get approximately the same result.
Change for the better is rarely immediate...Matno
Jul 7, 2003 5:52 PM
It would take time to get rid of bad teachers, even if they set strict criteria that many current teachers didn't measure up to.
Throwing good money after bad...The Walrus
Jul 7, 2003 7:05 PM
...until students have an interest in learning, which means their parents need to wake up and stop expecting the schools to do all the work. There's only so much even the most gifted and dedicated teacher can do if mom and dad don't get the kids out of the malls or off the street corners, take the Playstations out of their hands, turn off the TV and put 'em to work. When I was making my way through the public schools 3 decades ago, there was no panic about falling test scores. Why? Because there was no need for the #&$%ing tests! Through whatever combination of encouragement and imposed discipline we experienced, we
i learned.
There was no feel-good blathering about self-esteem or "entitlements". Too many people just expect the rewards with putting in the effort.
Exactly, public education...Dwayne Barry
Jul 8, 2003 5:11 AM
is another great example of the failure of personal responsibility in this country.

There is probably very little a bad school can do to stop a motivated student from getting a decent education and very little a good school can do to educate an unmotivated student.

Motivation starts with the student which is going to primarily reflect how the parents have stressed or not stressed education to their child.

Don't any of the "throw more money" at "bad" schools talk to the teachers? Every teacher I know complains about the kids and the lack of parental responsibility. I've never heard my friends who are teachers say, if only I had more money I could educate these kids better.
Hey, don't knock the Playstation as an education toolContinental
Jul 8, 2003 7:15 AM
I agree with you that 90% of the problems with public schools are students and parents, not teachers and facilities. High performing schools have a predominance of students living with a mom and a dad at home, and the parents are active volunteers in the schools everyday. These schools attract the best teachers and administrators because they are safe, pleasant, and rewarding places to work. I disagree with your attack on video games. Good games are not mindless activities but are intellectually challenging. My 3 kids play quite a lot of video games. I've tried to play with them, but I'm bewildered by the complexity. I know that they have learned alot and developed their brains by playing these games. Each of my 3 kids (who attend public schools) also are at the 99 percentile in standardized academic achievement test. My older brother has made the same observation about video games. His son loved video games but also completed high school in 3 yrs with honors, then got a double degree in Architecture and Civil Engineering by the time he was 20 years old.
Yeah, I grew up...Dwayne Barry
Jul 8, 2003 9:43 AM
on video games (hell, I remember when my friend in grade school got pong). When I go home today I'm going to play a PC game for hours. And I'm currently working on my PhD.

The most important thing for a young person is to be properly motivated and more importantly INTERESTED in something, again the parent is going to provide that kernel (or rarely a really good teacher). You ain't going to learn what you don't want to know!
Yeah, you will grow up...53T
Jul 8, 2003 10:04 AM
"I'm going to play a PC game for hours"

Enjoy those hours. Play like you will someday reach a point in your life when you will never have that opportunity again.

Youth is truly wasted on the young.
Aaaaahhhhh, an "education tool"--of course it is....The Walrus
Jul 8, 2003 1:06 PM
...NOT! I'm sure that "good games" (whichever those are) have their place, but I'm not sure what the kids I see playing Grand Theft Auto are learning. I'm not complaining about video games per se, but their all-too-frequent use as a substitute for parental involvement. A neighbor of mine ran a daycare center for years, and it was common for parents of her students to buy every conceivable toy and knickknack for their kids, so the little nippers would stay in their rooms and not expect Mom & Dad to actually be
i parents.
The neighbor finally asked
i why
these people had had children if they found them so burdensome, and the response was that all their friends were having kids, so they figured they should, too.
I wonder how many of the teachers could pass the test?94Nole
Jul 8, 2003 5:07 AM
Therein lies the problem. Large portion of the teachers stink. Kind of like nurses in hospitals it is more about career now then about caring.
tenureDougSloan
Jul 8, 2003 6:45 AM
Get rid of tenure and make teachers' employment at will and I'd bet you get better service from many of them. Most do a great job already, but the less motivated or capable ones might do better or would be more easily replaced.

It's stupid to have testing dumbed down so much that everyone can pass.

Doug
Earth to Doug53T
Jul 8, 2003 8:10 AM
Tenure? I'm pretty sure we're discussing K-12 education here. These teachers are civil service employees of municipalities. In my state (and probably all states) they are unionized, closed shop. Eliminating tenure is probably a bad idea in Colleges, where it actually applies, but is simply irrelevant in public K-12 schools.

Now reality check time: Most money spent in public schools is in fact for teacher's salaries. Class sizes are way down from where they were when we were kids, this means more teachers (remember the union?) The second biggest expense is administrator's salaries. We could have a debate about how many of these guys we need around.

Federal funding (which Manto, myself and many others oppose on ideological grounds) accounts for very little of a school district's budget, maybe 10% in a urban district, 2% in a suburban district.

The latest federal rules, however (No Child Left Behind) require (an unfunded mandate, by the way) state wide universal testing in Math and English with a 100% pass rate by 2012, objective qualifications for teachers (like proficiency testing) standardized statewide curriculums in Math and English (but not standard between states).

A lot of what you see happening in schools will not make sense unless you read up on the new federal education reforms (NCLB). Calling for test that everyone can pass may sound very strange out of context. However, a 100% pass rate is the requirement, so something must be done. Consider that Special Ed and everyone else is in that 100% rate. In my Massachusetts district we have everyone mainstreamed, if a kid can write his name, he sits for the MCAS tests. Predictably, 100% pass rates don't ever occur.
Where in Mass, 53T? My fiance just got her Master's in Ed,RhodyRider
Jul 8, 2003 12:53 PM
through an excellent program at UMass Boston, and her proving ground (if you will) was Dorchester High, part of BPS. What you say above rings so true to what she's been telling me for the past 1.5 years.
She should have an...interesting...career path, to say the least.
I'm in Central Mass53T
Jul 8, 2003 4:42 PM
Well western Metro-West to be less than precise.
I just finished a program at Harvard, not education but my paper and my advisor were School of Education. I'm afraid I know may too much about public education right now. I'm looking forward to forgetting it!
and as a resultrufus
Jul 8, 2003 1:10 PM
many teachers today simply teach to pass the tests. anything outside the scope of the tests is ignored. no more learning for the joy or interest of it, no more covering little things that may not be important, but are historically interesting for one reason or another.

we'll turn out a little system of automatons who can regurgitate answers on command, but can't think critically or problem solve on their own.
same thingDougSloan
Jul 8, 2003 1:45 PM
It's the same concept, unless you want to split hairs and make smartalecky comments. They have government and/or union protected jobs, rather than being at will, or on annual discretionary contracts. It's tenure, no matter what else you may want to call it. I fully understand, despite your possibly unwitting attack on my intellect, that tenure was created to protect academic independence of college professors. However, the concept spilled over to all public schools in effect, whatever it's called.

By the way, Mr. Smart Guy, teachers in most places (everywhere I know of) are not employees of municipalities, but rather school districts, which are independent of municipalities.

Do you agree with my substantive point or not - that teachers should be accountable (as should administrators)?

Doug
My appologies53T
Jul 8, 2003 4:38 PM
I certainly did not mean to attack your intellect, although my smart-alecky comments were pretty mild compared to the usual vitriol hurled in my direction.

Although the effects of tenure and unions on decreasing turnover are similar, the protections offered are not so similar, particularly here in Mass where if you fail enough teacher tests your gone. A tenured Prof. can become dumb as a skid and still draw a paycheck. I also disagree with any spillover effect from Tenure to teacher's unions. These two separate accommodations have grossly divergent and historically significant ancestries. The liberal nuts in Cambridge who felt persecuted by the establishment for teaching Locke have very little in common with Jimmy Hoffa.

By the way Mr. Smart Guy Esq., schools are owned and operated by the municipality here in Massachusetts, and in many other states. Although I will stipulate that your model applies in lots of places as well.

Yes I agree with your point that good teaching has to start with good teachers. I like the mandatory testing we have here now. I also like the new rule that says you must have a related Bachelor's degree to teach a subject at the HS level. No more phys Ed majors teaching physics!
Tenure...Matno
Jul 8, 2003 2:00 PM
I don't know if tenure exists in primary education, but teachers unions have a similar effect. (I still think that most if not all of what unions do these days is a complete waste and a detriment to productivity...)

I had forgotten about the No Child Left Behind mandate. What an incredibly stupid idea. Instead, they ought to do what many colleges do, and require grade distribution to reflect a normal distribution (i.e. a bell curve). I'm not saying they should take it so far as to require some students to fail, but if nobody is failing, it's a pretty good indication that the testing is too easy. The alternative interpretation, of course, would be that the teaching is excellent - highly unlikely under our current system.

It was stupid of me to leave out the MAJOR factor influencing quality of education. Walrus, I stand corrected. I guess I'll have to say that nothing the schools themselves can do will improve the quality of education more than improving the quality of the teachers. The real key to education is personal motivation, and the only way to improve that is if parents are involved. I hear parents here in NYC all the time talking about how wonderful the after school programs are because they keep their kids out of trouble after school. When I was growing up, that was the PARENTS' responsibility. It should be still. Unfortunately, we have far too many families that consist of either disfunctional relationships, single-parent households, working parents who don't have time for their kids, or just plain lazy-disinterested parents. Unless that changes, I doubt we'll see improvements in education. However, once the tests get easier, I'm sure we're going to start seeing improvements in test scores. Of course, then employers will be forced to administer their own tests before they hire anyone to determine whether they are competent...