School reform thread

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School reform thread

Post by Raccoon » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:13 pm

[Split off from the ethical dilemma thread - Rac]
bennieloohoo wrote:My experience (warning: small sample size) leads me to think that just throwing money at underperforming schools isn't going to make them much better. I've seen money wasted in all kinds of creative ways in Texas public schools. I'm torn on the voucher thing; I think a market would result in improved education, but at the same time I feel like public education shouldn't be privatized on philosophical grounds. And this is coming from a guy who generally likes privatizing things.
I think this is right (that you can't just throw money at bad schools).

A major reason that SAT scores correlate to family income is that family income correlates to parents' education levels, and parents' education levels correlate to perceptions of the value of education. These aren't perfect correlations, of course -- and I've been teaching enough years that I've come across law students who were the first ones in their family to graduate from college, much less attend law school. (I usually try to snatch those students up as research assistants!)

Mrs. Raccoon and I both have college and law degrees, and on top of that, while we're not Amy Chua extremists, we are both Asian. You can be sure that our sons have already been getting indoctrinated about the importance of doing homework, getting good grades, going to college, etc. (To be sure, I don't mean to suggest that only Asians do these things.) I go over my son's homework before he turns it in and I make him fix any mistakes. I look over his completed in-class assignments and go over any mistakes that his teacher failed to catch. I teach him other math/science things outside of class. Etc.

The problem is, if you don't have parents who (1) care and are heavily invested in their kids' academic performance; and (2) are able to exert themselves in that direction, then it's going to take an exceptional child and/or teacher(s) to make it work.

I used to think -- in my pre-parenting days -- that all you needed to do was to pay the better teachers more money to work in the bad schools. How's that for a market solution? But now I don't believe that would work. Some teachers are good teachers for certain students, but not others. In the end, parents matter immensely.
Eigenbasis wrote:If the state tries to equalize funds, and then parents donate their time and money on top of that, like with the foundations you describe, I think that's a good thing. That's money that would not otherwise go in to the school system. Of course parents will pay for ostensibly silly things like "principal for a day" but I bet might be opposed to increased taxes to pay for education if those foundations didn't exist. That's just human nature and you can't fight it.
Note that this POV takes an ethical stance: it's not concerned with leveling the playing field, so much as providing a minimally adequate level of funding for all students. As long as every student gets at least $N/year spent on them (and $N is a good amount), it's okay if some students get $1.5N/year spent on them if that extra amount comes from parents donations' of cash and time.

I can't say that's wrong, and it's more egalitarian than the California/Florida approach. But what happens is that the gap between the affluent and poor still continues to widen.

Of course, it's virtually impossible to fight the urge that parents will have to help their kids out. And at least a good education, unlike a large inheritance, is something that is generally productive for the kids.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by top1214 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:05 pm

Raccoon wrote: Of course, it's virtually impossible to fight the urge that parents will have to help their kids out. And at least a good education, unlike a large inheritance, is something that is generally productive for the kids.
There's the rub; we're not dealing with a closed system. If public school were the only option, it would be much easier to fix. But once some people can opt out, they will.

That's what happened to me. I was going to a public school literally on the next block when I was growing up (seriously, I cut through a neighbor's yard to get there). They discovered I could read in kindergarten, and skipped me to first grade (which was when reading was taught). In second grade, they sent me to the third grade class for reading class, and offered to skip me again. That's when my parents realized the New Haven public school system was failing their children, and began exploring options.

Really, what was the other option there? Have me graduate high school at 12? That's another issue w/public schools; they can't be pitched at the right level for everyone.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:11 am

This episode of Planet Money is pretty related to the discussion: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/01/ ... cher-worth

According to the podcast, there are pretty solid studies indicating that some teachers consistently improve reading levels and other test scores, and those differences in test scores from one year of school are reflected in future success. If that's the case, a system to reward good teachers (based on these improvements in test scores, rather than absolute testing levels) and remove/train/whatever bad teachers could have a huge impact without spending crazy money in stupid ways.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:01 pm

The problem behind the "can't throw money at it" rhetoric is that it's used as a universal attack on budgets without offering alternative solutions. And usually the solution requiring more money has more reason behind it than "if we double the school's budget it will get better!". In other words, it's a straw-man based on a truism that every can agree with.

Unfortunately, it also allows school budgets to remain very low compared to the services they are trying to provide. At stake is only the education of the entire next generation -- the people who will become the next voters, the next round of employees the next generation of neighbors, the source of the country's GDP and competitiveness in 30 years.

Fortunately, the American-Asian and Jewish communities have their priorities still correctly attuned to valuing education; and the results are obvious. The rest of the country is embroiled in anti-intellectualism that bleeds into devaluing education.

Personally, I like the idea of charter schools and voucher systems -- however, I would insist that there be a requirement for those schools to take on a percentage of the "difficult" population that the public school deals with. This is to ensure the public school isn't left with the dregs, the evaluation of public vs charter isn't biased by who they serve, and that some of those kids get a chance. I'd love to see a charter-school that educated a similar percentage of the "difficult" population with the same budget as a public school. Then I'd like to see that at kind of success at scale. But I think the real reason charter-schools succeed is that a large percentage of the parents are actively involved in the school and education of their kids -- be it through fund raising or extra education.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Apr 12, 2011 1:11 pm

slaphappy snark wrote:This episode of Planet Money is pretty related to the discussion: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/01/ ... cher-worth

According to the podcast, there are pretty solid studies indicating that some teachers consistently improve reading levels and other test scores, and those differences in test scores from one year of school are reflected in future success. If that's the case, a system to reward good teachers (based on these improvements in test scores, rather than absolute testing levels) and remove/train/whatever bad teachers could have a huge impact without spending crazy money in stupid ways.
Thanks for the link, Snark -- I hope NPR publishes a transcript soon.

I'll just note that the teachers' unions seem generally opposed to what I've bolded. Also, I wonder if what would happen is that the foundations at schools like my son's would try to raise even more money to keep the good teachers. I suppose that's okay, sort of a market-driven approach.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:26 pm

Aren't a lot of unions against merit-based cuts? I assume that teachers' unions get away with it based on the argument that there isn't a good or fair way to differentiate bad teachers from good, unlike a lot of other industries. If studies like the ones mentioned in that show demonstrate that there are ways to measure the difference and that if affects future success, that provides a lot more information to decision-makers and leaves the argument without a lot to stand on.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by bennieloohoo » Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:45 pm

The bad thing about judging teachers based on their students' test scores is that standardized tests suck. I have yet to hear of a half-decent one, anyway. The ones in Texas (TAKS) are total jokes -- if you're literate, you pass with flying colors. For high school teachers, AP scores are kind of an okay way to go, but a lot of the tests are still dumb (at least in my experience; I took about a third of them). Teaching to a test is a crappy way to teach, but I don't know how to write a test that will effectively test students' learning while not rewarding teaching to the test. Maybe there's a state with a better test out there that I don't know about? :S

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:17 pm


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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:30 pm

bennieloohoo wrote:The bad thing about judging teachers based on their students' test scores is that standardized tests suck. I have yet to hear of a half-decent one, anyway. The ones in Texas (TAKS) are total jokes -- if you're literate, you pass with flying colors. For high school teachers, AP scores are kind of an okay way to go, but a lot of the tests are still dumb (at least in my experience; I took about a third of them). Teaching to a test is a crappy way to teach, but I don't know how to write a test that will effectively test students' learning while not rewarding teaching to the test. Maybe there's a state with a better test out there that I don't know about? :S
That's why my "if"s were so focused on test-score improvement and that improvement being tied to future success. stu's link seems to indicate that there was a lot missing from the studies described on the brief podcast I listened to; I just think that if there is a solid link between some kind of teaching results and success as an adult, we shouldn't ignore it.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Omri » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:37 pm

Now my link I've been wanting to share is relevant! I read a 25-page excerpt from a book about mathematics and mathematics education, and how standardized testing, standardized curriculum, and mathematics being a required course (among other things) have ruined mathematics education, and appreciation for how awesome math is.

Among the lines that I agreed with, having spent a couple of years in grad school for education, was "In particular, you can't teach teaching. Schools of education are a complete crock. Oh, you can take classes in early childhood development and whatnot, and you can be trained to use a blackboard 'effectively' and to prepare an organized 'lesson plan' (which, by the way, insures that your lesson will be planned, and therefore false), but you will never be a real teacher if you are unwilling to be a real person. Teaching means openness and honesty, an ability to share excitement, and a love of learning. Without these, all the education degrees in the world won't help you, and with them they are completely unnecessary."

http://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf if you're interested in reading more.

I think we need to be investing LESS in standards-based education and standardized testing, not more. One of the main reasons I went into software instead of education is how shackled the world of education seems to be these days for teaching. You can't teach what's beautiful or what really inspires your passion, and will inspire passion (and therefore real learning) in your students. You have to cover these subjects by this date so your students will do well on that test. I'm all for keeping teachers accountable and rewarding good teachers. I just don't know if we've found a good way to measure that objectively, and until we can, any efforts at rewarding good teachers are counterproductive.

Edit: I totally agree with the article Stupac linked. Once I get more time, I may go into what parts of it exactly resonated with me.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:57 pm

I tend to agree that rating teachers solely by students' test score improvement is severely problematic. Back when I used to teach SAT prep courses, the average score increase that I achieved among my students were primarily driven by their incoming scores. It was quite easy to get 100+ (even 200+) increases in math or verbal -- if you were dealing with kids who were starting with scores in the 250-350 range. Obviously, students coming in with a 600+ on math or verbal weren't going to get anywhere near the same increases. In addition, most of that score increase wasn't generated via true learning so much as maximizing test taking efficiency.

I also think Omri is probably right that teaching can't be taught. Of course, I may have a biased view/experience, since I got zero training on how to teach law school. I'd been a TA before for undergraduate classes while I was in law school, but even there, I got zero training. Yet, law faculty do get evaluated on teaching (and it matters, except at the top 10-15 schools). I've seen former colleagues get counseled out of teaching because of poor teaching evaluations.

The problem I have with teachers' unions is that they seem to oppose ANY kind of effort to institute teaching evaluation/measurement. As noted above, I have no problem with the notion that you can't judge K-12 teachers by their students' test scores. But that's a far cry from saying that there's no way to measure teachers altogether. If K-12 teachers are professionals, and I believe that they are/should be, I have to believe that teachers can engage in peer review and decide generally which teachers are awesome, which are adequate/acceptable, and which need improvement.

In addition to peer review (teachers' committee sits in on the teacher's class, or looks at videotape), parents could be surveyed via email/paper evaluation form; for high school students, at least juniors and seniors, student evaluations could be sent out, etc.
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Eigenbasis » Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:35 pm

Since, as you said, this discussion is not really an ethical dilemma and people seem interested in discussing this at length, it could be split in to its own thread?
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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by slaphappy snark » Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:35 pm

I just want to say that I feel like I have pigeonholed myself weirdly by linking that podcast and describing my response to it. My personal experiences with standardized testing have led me to believe that the tests are stupid and worthless and usually test how well you take tests better than anything about the subject matter. I think far too much time is currently spent on tests and teaching to them.

That being said, if studies indicate that there is a strong correlation between improvement in test scores by various teachers' students and the future academic and professional success of those students, I think that is worthwhile information to consider and potentially put to use. If there isn't, and the study discussed in the one twenty-minute podcast that I listened to is full of crap and unrepeatable (or was just misunderstood by me and/or the podcast), then that is fine.

Edit: I just don't think that the fact that it feels icky should lead us to ignore test scores as a measurement, just like I don't think that the fact that they are quantitative should automatically lead us to use test scores. I think we should study things and see what works for evaluating teachers and for improving teacher effectiveness.

Another edit:
Raccoon wrote:Back when I used to teach SAT prep courses, the average score increase that I achieved among my students were primarily driven by their incoming scores.
I believe that the idea in comparing score increases is to effectively compare between students with similar starting places, comparing their expected growth based on their starting place to the actual growth they experience. Not a direct absolute comparison of "this teacher improved test scores by an average of 50 points."

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by bennieloohoo » Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:21 pm

I had the same experience teaching SAT and ACT prep last summer, Raccoon; you can drastically improve your score on those tests without learning anything new, except how to take that particular test. Which, given the importance of the tests, is kind of sad. And I totally agree with your statements regarding teachers' unions, and with what you and snark are saying about finding some workable method of quantifying success in teaching. This could definitely be split into its own thread too :P

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by stupac2 » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:40 pm


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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Omri » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:19 pm

The problem I have with teachers' unions is that they seem to oppose ANY kind of effort to institute teaching evaluation/measurement. As noted above, I have no problem with the notion that you can't judge K-12 teachers by their students' test scores. But that's a far cry from saying that there's no way to measure teachers altogether. If K-12 teachers are professionals, and I believe that they are/should be, I have to believe that teachers can engage in peer review and decide generally which teachers are awesome, which are adequate/acceptable, and which need improvement.
I agree 100% - I really dislike the same thing about teachers' unions, and I do think teachers should be judged in some way on how good of a job they do. I also agree and think peer review sounds a pretty good way to judge teaching skill, although of course that gets into all kinds of office politics kind of stuff, and pretty significant potential for corruption.

As far as test scores being a part of judging teaching, that's fine, but (and I don't mean to imply that you disagree with this, because I don't think you do) when the best way to get a good teaching evaluation is to "teach to the test" instead of actually engaging students in material in a way that helps them learn and makes them want to learn more, there are significant problems.

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Re: Raccoon's thread of ethical dilemmas

Post by Raccoon » Tue Apr 12, 2011 9:52 pm

Omri wrote:I agree 100% - I really dislike the same thing about teachers' unions, and I do think teachers should be judged in some way on how good of a job they do. I also agree and think peer review sounds a pretty good way to judge teaching skill, although of course that gets into all kinds of office politics kind of stuff, and pretty significant potential for corruption.

As far as test scores being a part of judging teaching, that's fine, but (and I don't mean to imply that you disagree with this, because I don't think you do) when the best way to get a good teaching evaluation is to "teach to the test" instead of actually engaging students in material in a way that helps them learn and makes them want to learn more, there are significant problems.
Yes, peer review has downsides, and I'd have some doubts about the ability to ordinal rank, say, 50 teachers at a given school. But if what we're trying to do is figure out three categories:

1) great teachers who deserve merit bonuses, etc.;
2) adequate teachers who deserve regular raises when the budget allows them; and
3) inadequate teachers who first get counseling, help, etc. to improve; and failing that, get fired;

then I think peer review + outside (i.e. parent and/or student) evaluations + perhaps the principal's evaluation, should be able to sort teachers into those three categories.

To be fair, pretty much evaluation methods have their downsides. Student evaluations can favor teachers who are better-looking, who seem cool, who spoon-feed students, and so on. I know faculty who used to walk out of class if enough students were unprepared for that day's class. But now hardly anyone does because it can have a detrimental effect on student evaluations.

But just because there are downsides doesn't mean we shouldn't try to minimize those downsides, or at least understand their limitations. As I said earlier, I can understand why K-12 teachers don't want to be evaluated solely on student test score performance (and Snark, I didn't see you as arguing for such). I can't understand why they don't put forth their own basis for evaluating themselves. Teachers are not fungible, and they should be in the best position to know (collectively) who's doing a good job, who's getting by, and who's failing students.
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Re: School reform thread

Post by NardoLoopa » Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:45 pm

Anecdotes are fun ways to invalidate "pretty good" systems:

The "worst" teacher / learning experience I had in HS was a physics teacher who taught to the state's test.

One of the "best" teacher / learning experiences I had in HS was a history teacher who left the class completely unprepared for the History AP test (the ostensible 'goal' of the course).

From my limited perspective, two teachers who taught very well to my learning-style were both denied tenure because they did not teach the dominant paradigm of styles for that course (HS geometry, College calc II). On both occasions I wrote notes to the board on their behalf.

When I taught at UMass for 3 years I had a file in the dean's office with 13 complaint letters about my teaching approach and 15 letters of praise. I was also to be elected "teacher of the year" until I told the dean I was quitting.

I remember being in several HS classrooms that completely changed on the days the principle showed up to evaluate the teacher. Mostly this was bad teachers trying to fake it. I also feel that any studied observer should be able to pick up on this, but maybe that's asking a lot.

The best gift a great teacher can give you isn't well evaluated by standardized tests (which typically assess memorized facts). The best gift is a burning passion to self-educate. And how is this identified?

Maybe instead of evaluating single teachers it could be better to evaluate a "team" of teachers. Each "team" is the string of teachers that had a hand in your education from K-12. Your "success" (college placement) determines the reward of the whole team. Then let the team manage itself including hiring and firing from/into the team. Obviously there are problems with transfer students etc, but that is naturally a small percentage.
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Re: School reform thread

Post by TrueEeviL » Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:03 pm

I can say from that through elementary, middle, high school and college I had a few good teachers, but a grand total of *one* who actually made me stop within 20 minutes of starting the class and say, "Wow, this guy is really good at his job". I thanked him on the last day and his response was word-for-word: "Every teacher I ever had failed me. So, I don't do this shit for money, I do it for you guys."

This was a calculus prof, so it was really late in my education, but I wish I had seen the difference between great and average teachers earlier. It opened my eyes to the fact I learned nothing in school for the most part. Character, study habits, work ethic were build at home or with friends. Teachers were really just removed and rattling off facts. Furthermore those facts was all memory stretching repetition besides basic-algebra level math and communication. y^2 = 4px is a parabola, Battle of Saratoga was the turning point of the Revolutionary war, Domain is the highest rank for living things. Who the fuck cares, really?

This is what I see as the fundamental problem with primary and secondary education systems: Why do I need 3 science credits, health, 2 art or music, 3 history, etc to graduate HS? Classical education makes no sense in a modern age. Forcing someone to art or music when they dislike them or can't do either is dumb. Why do I need to know the names of Civil War generals when I don't care about history and have the internet? That just disconnects me. Why not focus on public speaking/Debating/Economics? Are those not disproportionately more important to an average persons life than sitting in a phys ed class and hating life because you aren't athletic and look stupid? If they are not, tell me why.

If I were designing a system: Leave K-5 largely intact as an "intro to the world" type thing. Then 4 hours communication/teambuilding/logic courses and 2 hours of elective (music, art, history, technology, etc) in Middle school. Each elective would have 3 levels, so you can go all the way through with a pair. Idea is to build a strong,functional core and intro to different fields. Then 5/3 split in HS. HS electives would have a finer split, almost like a major (So tech splits into programming 1,2,3,4 and networking... and so on. Art splits into animation..., painting..., 3d modeling..., etc).

With a full year, or even two to cover what freshman level college courses do in a semester/trimester you can build a much stronger understanding of subjects. And it wont be "too hard" or "over their heads" because you can literally take a week to teach "This is a variable, it holds data" due to the crawling pace. You can even keep the advanced/normal in place and have a double speed version for those who are bored. Get an A in "my first programming class" freshman year? You can take the 1/2 year programming fundamentals next year or the 1 year version. Don't like it at all? Go take "My first mechanics class".

And yeah, I'm just spouting off here, but that's where I'd start as a baseline before tweaking/overhauling everything. Also, Fuck Classical Education.

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Re: School reform thread

Post by TrueEeviL » Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:05 pm

Separate thing:

1) Stupid parents keep kids stupid. 30 hour-a-week education of average quality is often just not enough raw firepower to break habits learned in formative years and in the other 138 hours a week. To break this kids need to see "Wow, my parents aren't that smart. I wonder what else I don't know" which is a really hard thing to do. I know this first hand.

2) Rich get richer. Agree/disagree with Gladwell in general, he points out that small advantages turn to large ones in systems that are in place in society, and this has validity. In sports if you have more initial talent, you play on Travel/AAU teams and get more experience/better coaching, which carries into HS where you get more attention/coaching.

In education it's the same way: Kid A's parent teaches him reading, Kid B's doesn't. Kid A is seen as smarter and gets more focus from teachers that don't know what the fuck they are doing in primary school. Due to the attention Kid A thinks he is smarter and tries more and gets more help. Kid B thinks he is stupid from the beginning and stops trying because "I'll never be as smart as him". Kid A gets AP classes, gets into college and is an engineer. Kid B is in normal classes and does ok, but doesn't get in, so goes to community college and works some low-middle class job.

Now, I'm aware it's not that simple, but the concept is. Find two new-ish players in /newbie and show one +stats, how familiars speed you up, and what items/food are good and how to get them. Now tell the other to use a chaun for mad meat and always concentrate on moxie and don't go into zones above safe moxie. Wanna make a bet the one you helped is 100x more likely to get on a leaderboard within two years?

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Re: School reform thread

Post by DarthDud » Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:55 pm

I've always found the objection of teaching to the test an interesting one. From my perspective, any reasonably intelligent student who receives a good education from good teachers (ah, but this is the hard part, no?) will not be helped in any significant way by being taught targeting a test specifically. If for no reason other than that these types of standardized tests are not very difficult, so the student should have no problem anyway.

The difficulty, it seems, is dealing with the lower denominators in terms of both students and teachers. I suppose this is precisely whom standardized tests are supposed to help: by giving a rigid guideline, a bad teacher is more likely to get across the required knowledge, and a bad student is more likely to have it drilled into him.

I don't have any data on me or anything, but I'd assume that test scores among lower-performing students are a much stronger indicator of teacher skill than with higher-performing students. They may serve a valuable purpose as an evaluative tool in certain circumstances, then, but not others.

As for the issue of acquiring good teachers, I think some issues are often ignored. People like to point out that people who make good teachers generally could pursue other careers instead, which are more lucrative, and conclude that teachers should be paid more to make the job more enticing for these people. However, this gets you false positives, too, and lots of them. More of everyone, including bad teachers, will go into teaching. Without good ways to evaluate teachers, which clearly we don't really have (at least not systematically), as evidenced in this thread, this could easily do more harm than good.

What people don't consider as much is the barrier to entry for teachers. A lot of good teachers don't like to put up with lots of bullshit, and that's pretty much what teaching degrees are. I'm sure some of it is valuable, but the amount of schooling/time/money you have to put in to become a teacher, above and beyond your other education, is significant. Especially if you decide post-college that you want to go into teaching, that's a pretty big roadblock. It seems a very small core of classes (obtainable at a community college), plus an apprenticeship style program, would be more appropriate. Something you could quickly and affordably move into.

As for classical education, I'm a bit split. The problem is that you can make the argument for almost every class you take pre-college, outside of basic things like reading/writing/basic arithmetic/typing (maybe a modicum of history), that it is not very important for modern life. And it's kinda true. On the other hand, I do think there is some degree of value in being exposed to a variety of things. I'd even say that some things which aren't individually important for getting through life are important for making informed decisions when it comes to voting, so as a society we could justify teaching things that have little to no merit to any given individual. What those things are, and where you draw the line in terms of what is really important or not in modern life seems difficult to decide.

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Eigenbasis
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Re: School reform thread

Post by Eigenbasis » Wed Apr 13, 2011 7:32 pm

TrueEeviL wrote:This is what I see as the fundamental problem with primary and secondary education systems: Why do I need 3 science credits, health, 2 art or music, 3 history, etc to graduate HS? Classical education makes no sense in a modern age. Forcing someone to art or music when they dislike them or can't do either is dumb. Why do I need to know the names of Civil War generals when I don't care about history and have the internet? That just disconnects me. Why not focus on public speaking/Debating/Economics? Are those not disproportionately more important to an average persons life than sitting in a phys ed class and hating life because you aren't athletic and look stupid? If they are not, tell me why.

If I were designing a system: Leave K-5 largely intact as an "intro to the world" type thing. Then 4 hours communication/teambuilding/logic courses and 2 hours of elective (music, art, history, technology, etc) in Middle school. Each elective would have 3 levels, so you can go all the way through with a pair. Idea is to build a strong,functional core and intro to different fields. Then 5/3 split in HS. HS electives would have a finer split, almost like a major (So tech splits into programming 1,2,3,4 and networking... and so on. Art splits into animation..., painting..., 3d modeling..., etc).
I find this to be rather puzzling. In middle school and HS we had plenty of electives. You have to take two fine arts credits, for example, which can be fulfilled with visual art, choir, band, speech, debate, or drama. Computer requirement could be either the "MS Office" class, the photoshop/animation class, or intro programming. If you were bad at math you could take Finite Mathematics or Business Math instead of the higher level maths. For science you could choose from several different courses once you got your basic chem, bio, and physics. There were remedial classes, regular classes, honors classes, and AP classes. But who knows, I was just a spoiled private school kid sheltered from the spartan public school system and the meaningless FCATS.

Also I find your suggestions baffling in a climate where every non-core-subject teacher's job is at risk of being cut.
Edit - I'm not sure whether you're describing an "ideal" education strategy or one that can be realistically implemented. Still, I'm going to leave my previous statement there.
"Have you ever heard the expression, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then throw it in the face of the person who gave you the lemons until they give you the oranges you originally asked for?’"

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Re: School reform thread

Post by DarthDud » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:08 pm

How are your basic bio/chem/physics important for most people's lives, though? Or the fine arts classes? And you still had all those different requirements, even if you had options to fulfill them...

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top1214
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Re: School reform thread

Post by top1214 » Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:13 pm

50% of Americans have to take a basic bio class and don't believe in evolution.

I will let you decide how that would work if they didn't have to take a bio class.

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Re: School reform thread

Post by TrueEeviL » Thu Apr 14, 2011 2:10 am

Eigenbasis wrote:You have to take two fine arts credits
This is what I hate! But, yeah we had no debate, and I did forget drama. Also, we had very limited computer classes. It was one basic class or Cisco Networking 1,2,3. Maybe my school sucked (it did), but a lot of nearby schools are the same.
Eigenbasis wrote:I'm not sure whether you're describing an "ideal" education strategy or one that can be realistically implemented. Still, I'm going to leave my previous statement there.
Yeah, "ideal", I go tangent to the topic like its my job.

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