The US Education System and Why We're Behind

Regardless of which political affiliation you adhere to in this great country, one fact remains that is almost universally agreed upon from the streets of NYC to the deserts of New Mexico: our education system sucks at the primary and secondary levels.

Chicago-schoolers call for vouchers, others call for increased funding to impoverished areas, and still others call for complete privatization of education, but the boogeyman still looms of us not doing the best job we can do to prepare people through school.

One blogger for the Harvard Business Review doesn't attribute the problem wholly to disparate socioeconomic levels, but instead to the dramatically different degrees of technological pervasiveness that are faced by children inside and outside the classroom.

You can read the full article here.

I will agree that, as a 23 year-old now, high school was most likely dramatically different when I was going through it than it is today. The fact of the matter is that no one had smartphones, fewer people were constantly connected to one another through Facebook, and though the internet still played a pretty large role in our lives, I wouldn't consider it to be preponderant.

Now, on the other hand, kids in middle school have smartphones and access to essentially infinite information 24/7, and I can see how this could greatly disrupt the almost draconian perception that the "teacher is always right" and is the voice of reason and authority between the hours of 8am and 3:30pm. This, coupled with the fact that the people I know who became primary and secondary educators post-college were academically unimpressive, leads me to agree with the author's points that the traditional method of teaching kids is starting to become dated.

Where I live, for example (in the Dirty South, famous for terrible education), a greater number of school systems are implementing online coursework for kids in high school. Some of these kids only have to go to the classroom for tests -- akin to distance education at the college or even graduate level -- and are free to work on their own schedules throughout the day. I'm not sure this is the approach to take, and might only work for students who have already demonstrated high achievement and self-discipline, but I do think it is at least a step in the right direction.

But the author also suggests that we dilute the prototypical public school curriculum of math, science, social studies, and english courses in favor of classes that kids want to take (the author claiming that these courses include computer science, business, and other marketable disciplines). To what degree can this be diluted before kids really do begin to no longer be "well-rounded"? I have always been of the belief that, in college, everyone should have to take courses in the liberal arts (i.e. through a core curriculum) because those courses teach us to think critically and abstractly about many different problems and questions -- I think this applies to a degree to primary and secondary education too. What do you guys think?

What do you all make of all this? Transition the classroom to the interwebs, or keep it old-fashioned and force up those artificially high ADHD rates? No but seriously, why does everyone have ADHD now?

Thanks for reading.

Comments (159)

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 10:58am

This is ridiculous. To fix American schools you've got to pay teachers a competitive wage (which doesn't mean just a raise, I mean competition) and force students to be in school ALL YEAR 'ROUND, particularly in disadvantaged areas where going home means exposure to drugs, gang-bangers and other illicit activities.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:05am

I think the other problem besides the fact that the pay is the biggest deterrant for teachers is that our education system is geared for the SLOWEST kid in the classroom. I think this is the biggest thing that has to be changed. I used to get in trouble all the time in grade school because I grasped everything immediately and the teacher had to spend 30 of the remaining 45 minutes of time teaching everyone else. I'd get bored and cause trouble. I used to even finish the tests of the kids next to me so I'd have someone to play with, so to speak.

The structure needs to change, but I have no idea how to do it or even how to suggest it.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:11am

tyrets:
I think the other problem besides the fact that the pay is the biggest deterrant for teachers is that our education system is geared for the SLOWEST kid in the classroom. I think this is the biggest thing that has to be changed. I used to get in trouble all the time in grade school because I grasped everything immediately and the teacher had to spend 30 of the remaining 45 minutes of time teaching everyone else. I'd get bored and cause trouble. I used to even finish the tests of the kids next to me so I'd have someone to play with, so to speak.

The structure needs to change, but I have no idea how to do it or even how to suggest it.

yep. having tailored curricula would solve this problem and FAST.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:20am

SirTradesaLot:
For better students, you need better parents.

No that's wrong (unless you are referring to genetics, in which case yes, you're right, intelligence is hereditary).

For our education system to be fair you need a system that to the greatest extend possible transcends bad parenting (or good parenting) or rather any disadvantage not related to intellect for that matter. School all day, required extracurricular or extra help. This also relates to pay; as it stands you cannot support equal pay for someone who works only 1/2 a year and 6 hours a day.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:25am

Last time I checked, teaching is a public service. Ironically enough, these teachers are more concerned about their pensions than the long term well being of the students.

Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:35am

That_Aston:
Last time I checked, teaching is a public service. Ironically enough, these teachers are more concerned about their pensions than the long term well being of the students.

That attitude is probably a strong contributor to why teaching attracts the lowest competency talent. Teaching is an investment into a nation's economic and political stability. The teaching profession should be incentivized to attract the best and brightest - lots of latitude in lesson planning and day-to-day execution, high entry level salaries, better defined performance metrics.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:26am

the system is in its current shape because americans spend on education like they do on everything else: like cheapskate assholes who want quality but don't want to pay for it, and then piss and bitch about it. like the average moron complaining about the shitty quality of their chicom-made walmart crap, but then they refuse to pay a few dollars more for a product made by their neighbors right here in america.

you get what you pay for, assholes. that's an iron law of life.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:31am

melvvvar:
the system is in its current shape because americans spend on education like they do on everything else: like cheapskate assholes who want quality but don't want to pay for it, and then piss and bitch about it. like the average moron complaining about the shitty quality of their chicom-made walmart crap, but then they refuse to pay a few dollars more for a product made by their neighbors right here in america.

you get what you pay for, assholes. that's an iron law of life.

We have been paying exponentially more and our quality has not improved. We've tried throwing money at the problem and it isn't working.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:34am

All American Reject:
melvvvar:
the system is in its current shape because americans spend on education like they do on everything else: like cheapskate assholes who want quality but don't want to pay for it, and then piss and bitch about it. like the average moron complaining about the shitty quality of their chicom-made walmart crap, but then they refuse to pay a few dollars more for a product made by their neighbors right here in america.

you get what you pay for, assholes. that's an iron law of life.

We have been paying exponentially more and our quality has not improved. We've tried throwing money at the problem and it isn't working.

agreed. but we have been feeding the tail and not the tooth. all that money has been dumped on administrators and equ,ipment, when what you need are good teachers. triple their salaries and you will attract better brains.

the other part of "spending" is parents spending time disciplining their little bastards before dumping them on the system. you can't teach when your little fucker is so much of an ADHD disruptive cocksucker that he destroys the learning environment for everyone else.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 9:07pm

melvvvar:
the system is in its current shape because americans spend on education like they do on everything else: like cheapskate assholes who want quality but don't want to pay for it, and then piss and bitch about it. like the average moron complaining about the shitty quality of their chicom-made walmart crap, but then they refuse to pay a few dollars more for a product made by their neighbors right here in america.

you get what you pay for, assholes. that's an iron law of life.

I like your style, dude.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:49am

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. You need parents to make sure homework is being done, kids are attending class, behavior is being enforced, etc. Teachers are not miracle workers. They cannot discipline kids, they cannot force you to do homework, to study, to not be disruptive.

Also, many of the worst schools are also the most dangerous schools. Good teachers in their right mind are not going to be working in these places. And what are we really teaching? How do you define a "good teacher"? This isn't college where professors are doing research and expanding their field of study. Teachers are not getting degrees in what they teach, they are getting degrees in education and education theory.

I could teach a 6th grade class in about anything even though I was a finance major.

The majority of people are not going to be rocket scientists. IMO, we should teach the basics and for the kids that look like they are trending in the non college path, we should teach life skills, basic personal finance and have them learn a trade. Welding, being a machinist, skilled carpentry, etc. Maybe partner with labor unions and have an early outreach program to train future plumbers, pipe fitters, etc.

This and an exhaustive and extensive sex education curriculum. Free condoms, birth control, massive push to get people to use both. Put birth control in the damn food, I don't care. Whatever it takes to slow reproduction.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:51am

TNA:
You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. You need parents to make sure homework is being done, kids are attending class, behavior is being enforced, etc. Teachers are not miracle workers. They cannot discipline kids, they cannot force you to do homework, to study, to not be disruptive.

Also, many of the worst schools are also the most dangerous schools. Good teachers in their right mind are not going to be working in these places. And what are we really teaching? How do you define a "good teacher"? This isn't college where professors are doing research and expanding their field of study. Teachers are not getting degrees in what they teach, they are getting degrees in education and education theory.

I could teach a 6th grade class in about anything even though I was a finance major.

The majority of people are not going to be rocket scientists. IMO, we should teach the basics and for the kids that look like they are trending in the non college path, we should teach life skills, basic personal finance and have them learn a trade. Welding, being a machinist, skilled carpentry, etc. Maybe partner with labor unions and have an early outreach program to train future plumbers, pipe fitters, etc.

This and an exhaustive and extensive sex education curriculum. Free condoms, birth control, massive push to get people to use both. Put birth control in the damn food, I don't care. Whatever it takes to slow reproduction.

this is entirely the point of "good teachers."

throw out a number: how much would it take to get YOU to teach 6th grade?

i'd consider it for $350K, minimum.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 7:48pm

TNA:
You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.

Interesting point here but you make the invalid assumption that kids are horses, which they in fact are not.

TNA:
Teachers are not miracle workers. They cannot discipline kids, they cannot force you to do homework, to study, to not be disruptive.

More seriously I am pretty sure that there was a time when teachers could do all of those things...

TNA:
This and an exhaustive and extensive sex education curriculum. Free condoms, birth control, massive push to get people to use both. Put birth control in the damn food, I don't care. Whatever it takes to slow reproduction.

Good old fashioned eugenics.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:51am

There needs to be a standardized performance metric system for educators (in addition to above mentioned actions). The idea that educators get tenured after a few years and then can sit pretty and are nearly untouchable until retirement due to union contracts is outrageous. Not saying that all educators take advantage of this, but there are some. The education system needs to shift compensation to reward excellent performers and squeeze out dead weight (just like every other profession in the free world). This will substantially upgrade the talent pool within education and reflect positively upon the quality of output.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:25pm

KozzAndEffect:
There needs to be a standardized performance metric system for educators (in addition to above mentioned actions). The idea that educators get tenured after a few years and then can sit pretty and are nearly untouchable until retirement due to union contracts is outrageous. Not saying that all educators take advantage of this, but there are some. The education system needs to shift compensation to reward excellent performers and squeeze out dead weight (just like every other profession in the free world). This will substantially upgrade the talent pool within education and reflect positively upon the quality of output.

SB

Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:53am

Vontropnats:
Regardless of which political affiliation you adhere to in this great country, one fact remains that is almost universally agreed upon from the streets of NYC to the deserts of New Mexico: our education system sucks at the primary and secondary levels.

Chicago-schoolers call for vouchers, others call for increased funding to impoverished areas, and still others call for complete privatization of education, but the boogeyman still looms of us not doing the best job we can do to prepare people through school.

One blogger for the Harvard Business Review doesn't attribute the problem wholly to disparate socioeconomic levels, but instead to the dramatically different degrees of technological pervasiveness that are faced by children inside and outside the classroom.

You can read the full article here.

I will agree that, as a 23 year-old now, high school was most likely dramatically different when I was going through it than it is today. The fact of the matter is that no one had smartphones, fewer people were constantly connected to one another through Facebook, and though the internet still played a pretty large role in our lives, I wouldn't consider it to be preponderant.

Now, on the other hand, kids in middle school have smartphones and access to essentially infinite information 24/7, and I can see how this could greatly disrupt the almost draconian perception that the "teacher is always right" and is the voice of reason and authority between the hours of 8am and 3:30pm. This, coupled with the fact that the people I know who became primary and secondary educators post-college were academically unimpressive, leads me to agree with the author's points that the traditional method of teaching kids is starting to become dated.

Where I live, for example (in the Dirty South, famous for terrible education), a greater number of school systems are implementing online coursework for kids in high school. Some of these kids only have to go to the classroom for tests -- akin to distance education at the college or even graduate level -- and are free to work on their own schedules throughout the day. I'm not sure this is the approach to take, and might only work for students who have already demonstrated high achievement and self-discipline, but I do think it is at least a step in the right direction.

But the author also suggests that we dilute the prototypical public school curriculum of math, science, social studies, and english courses in favor of classes that kids want to take (the author claiming that these courses include computer science, business, and other marketable disciplines). To what degree can this be diluted before kids really do begin to no longer be "well-rounded"? I have always been of the belief that, in college, everyone should have to take courses in the liberal arts (i.e. through a core curriculum) because those courses teach us to think critically and abstractly about many different problems and questions -- I think this applies to a degree to primary and secondary education too. What do you guys think?

What do you all make of all this? Transition the classroom to the interwebs, or keep it old-fashioned and force up those artificially high ADHD rates? No but seriously, why does everyone have ADHD now?

Thanks for reading.

Everyone has ADHD now because it is easier to just take medications rather than force yourself or your kids to focus and study. There are so many distractions it is impossible not to be pulled in a million different directions when your in school.

Someone said above about paying competitive wages for the teachers. Fine, but let me fire ones that suck and get rid of this tenure bullshit that they have now. After that you need to stop trying to 'leave no child behind' and accept the fact that some kids need longer and more specialized teaching styles to move along. Not everyone moves at the same speed. This isn't a problem that can be solved by throwing money at it because I don't think that's the issue. The bigger problem that I see is that kids just don't care. They are disconnected from the idea that what you do now will help you in the future. You see the benefits of playing video games and hanging with your friends now, and don't see the value that crushing that math test has on your future earnings potential. Motivation is the biggest factor in how kids pick up the material and invest time in learning the material. Frankly, schools don't incentivize learning anything either. You cram up until the test, take it and move on.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 11:58am

the problem is that we are throwing money at the problem and not the solution. more money for useless equipment and adminstrators gets you nowhere.

useless administrators, counselors, etc. -- the waste is evident on that.

however, as a guy who has spent a little time teaching math at all levels, i can speak to another area of waste: math software, graphing calculators, etc.

that shit is expensive, first off. and second, not only does it not aid in education but it actively hinders it because we have kids that can't even do simple division in their heads without a calculator anymore. i am talking dividing 5 by 2 and putting it in decimals, at the HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL.

a good teacher is someone who knows the material and has the imaginationa and creativity to convey it. these are rare skills that are highly compensated by the non-teaching professions. why would someone throw away their talent for 40K a year teaching?

the other part of this: in addition to hiring good teachers, hire some ex drill seargents to kick the shit out of any troublemaker. 3 strikes policy for discipline cases. if you don't want to learn, and want to end up pushing a mop, that's fine. don't fuck it up for everyone else.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:41pm

the fact that teachers arent paid enough is an effect and not the cause of the problem. after all, it's not like a factory where if you buy a better piece of machinery you will churn out higher quality widgets that you can sell immediately at higher margins. the benefits of education are much more intangible and can only be really felt in the longer term. and standardized tests don't gauge intelligence usually, just how well you can game a particular test. the root issue is that public secondary education is undervalued in the us as a whole, by students, by parents, and by taxpayers. i went to a small new england public school where education was highly valued by parents and students alike. so even though we had shitty equipment and shitty facilities and i'm sure teachers didn't get paid much in absolute terms, the education was decent, students didn't cause much trouble, and 5-10% of a class got into ivies or equivalent. caring breeds caring....it's contagious.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:41pm

I think you just need magnet schools from elementary school honestly. The fact that our public schools are tailored to helping everyone pass rather than helping the bright excel really fucks up smart kids.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:43pm

Frankly, the biggest problem is the common perception that there is one overarching solution. The idea that someone can implement one change which will "fix" the whole education system and everyone will dance in the streets while the band plays is asinine.

Education reform controlled at the Federal level will always be so broad that it will significantly affect such a small percentage of the population. Hand over some control to administrators to run a school that challenges their students best. While it makes sense to teach someone in physical rehab how to put one foot in front of the other it doesn't make sense to continue to teach that to an Olympic track runner.The same applies for education.

For those who will point out the hypocrisy of my suggesting a solution I say that this is just a step towards further study and other solutions which will likely be more effective than mine. Handing over control is just the ante.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:43pm

I honestly believe teachers make up a majority of the problem, through a combination of tenure and, as a previous post on here mentioned (at least in my experience), the majority of people I know that "aspire" to become teachers are mostly underwhelming academic achievers. Granted these are generalizations, but from my experience these things tend to be more true then not. If the pool of applicants filling the teacher positions consists of generally below average students, that lazy, bad product is what begins to show further down the education stream.

How many people have been in a class with just a lazy professor, and old tests just get passed around like its no big deal, teachers don't even make efforts to update their curriculum or change it on a year to year basis with the understanding that no one class might be the same as the next. The best teachers i have had in my experience were all ones that had real tangible work experience (related to what they are teaching or not). I am not really in any position to throw out a broader solution to fix the education problem, but something that seems logical to me is mandating certain work experience before being able to teach. The old saying, "those who can't do, teach" cannot be even remotely accurate if our education system is going to improve. Education should not be an undergrad major, and I will even take it a step further and say people should have to have 2-3 years of work experience before they are even allowed to attend school to get some sort of education degree or certification. I think if this was the case, 50 years down the road you might start to see some tangible progress.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 12:56pm

mperit01:
I honestly believe teachers make up a majority of the problem, through a combination of tenure and, as a previous post on here mentioned (at least in my experience), the majority of people I know that "aspire" to become teachers are mostly underwhelming academic achievers. Granted these are generalizations, but from my experience these things tend to be more true then not. If the pool of applicants filling the teacher positions consists of generally below average students, that lazy, bad product is what begins to show further down the education stream.

How many people have been in a class with just a lazy professor, and old tests just get passed around like its no big deal, teachers don't even make efforts to update their curriculum or change it on a year to year basis with the understanding that no one class might be the same as the next. The best teachers i have had in my experience were all ones that had real tangible work experience (related to what they are teaching or not). I am not really in any position to throw out a broader solution to fix the education problem, but something that seems logical to me is mandating certain work experience before being able to teach. The old saying, "those who can't do, teach" cannot be even remotely accurate if our education system is going to improve. Education should not be an undergrad major, and I will even take it a step further and say people should have to have 2-3 years of work experience before they are even allowed to attend school to get some sort of education degree or certification. I think if this was the case, 50 years down the road you might start to see some tangible progress.

I am not a teacher and I by no means believe that teachers are inherently brighter than anyone else. Competition among teachers is one thing that obviously needs to be implemented for any kind of serious reform. The fact is though that not very many people could keep a positive attitude with the strict level of control in education. Try being creative and changing your curriculum when it is mandated that you have to teach exactly 4 weeks of this subject and 2 weeks of that and 3 weeks of this regardless of whether your students understand it ad nauseum or not.

At least in California teachers have to teach to a test that most of us passed our freshmen year in high school. the Cal High School Exit Exam. I passed it freshman year but teachers have to make sure everyone passes it. This means that the moron, who made his own drugs out of cough syrup in the bathroom then consequently couldnt assemble one coherent sentence, becomes the focus of the teacher's efforts instead of students who seek the knowledge.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 1:06pm

Here is an interesting idea. Maybe we focus too much on increasing the overall quality of schools and should instead focus our efforts on the kids who would most benefit from things. We have about 30% of Americans with a college degree. How about dumping time and effort into classes for those who are achieving or for those that were doing well, but have recently dropped in the rankings.

No matter what we do there will always be marginally intelligent people. Instead of focusing on helping them which will probably yield little results, why not focus on the people who have the horsepower, but aren't being stimulated or challenged enough. Take a triage approach.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 2:07pm

TNA:
Here is an interesting idea. Maybe we focus too much on increasing the overall quality of schools and should instead focus our efforts on the kids who would most benefit from things. We have about 30% of Americans with a college degree. How about dumping time and effort into classes for those who are achieving or for those that were doing well, but have recently dropped in the rankings.

No matter what we do there will always be marginally intelligent people. Instead of focusing on helping them which will probably yield little results, why not focus on the people who have the horsepower, but aren't being stimulated or challenged enough. Take a triage approach.

This sounds good, however, how can you tell who has the horsepower? There are stories about slow starters who ended up being... well, rocket scientists, so when/where do we stop trying?

I do agree that there should be programs to accommodate the 'above average'. I also feel there should be 'restorative' programs to make sure that we don't miss out on the 'slow starter' geniuses.

But Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought bravely. And Rhaegar died.
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 2:19pm

Anomanderis:
TNA:
Here is an interesting idea. Maybe we focus too much on increasing the overall quality of schools and should instead focus our efforts on the kids who would most benefit from things. We have about 30% of Americans with a college degree. How about dumping time and effort into classes for those who are achieving or for those that were doing well, but have recently dropped in the rankings.

No matter what we do there will always be marginally intelligent people. Instead of focusing on helping them which will probably yield little results, why not focus on the people who have the horsepower, but aren't being stimulated or challenged enough. Take a triage approach.

This sounds good, however, how can you tell who has the horsepower? There are stories about slow starters who ended up being... well, rocket scientists, so when/where do we stop trying?

I do agree that there should be programs to accommodate the 'above average'. I also feel there should be 'restorative' programs to make sure that we don't miss out on the 'slow starter' geniuses.

Yeah, I mean identifying the kids is tough. Maybe have tiers, like accelerated classes for above average kids and better than average classes that most kids get cycled through to shake out and quality students. Kind of like a more intense or encompassing AP class setup.

I am of the mindset that a lot of issues could be eliminated by getting rid of summer break. Make the year longer, have more education dumped on these kids and focus on basics. Maybe remove disruptive elements sooner.

I'd also support school uniforms and same sex classrooms to a large extent. Funny how people bitch about this in public schools but the well off send their kids to private schools where these things are the norm.

School is about learning, not fashion or banging hot 15 year olds.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 1:31pm

My gf is a teacher at a bad public school and I know alot about the dynamic because of that. You guys make some great points but one thing that hasn't really been touched upon is the way a school's budget is distributed. At her school (and I'm guessing this is true for most) they allocated a huge amount of the budget to special needs student which to me is a major mistake. I'm talking some crazy student teacher ratio maybe like 2:1. To me is you spend all your money on kids with mental retardation, bad cases of autism, other learning disabilities etc than you're really missing the mark. The best and brightest at this school not only have to deal with all the "bad eggs" but also cannot get the technology they need because each special needs kid needs his own teacher and "aid" essentially a security guard incase they go ape.

I don't know what it' like in other countries where they have caught up to us in education but I'm guessing they don't spend all their money on the kids that will add next to nothing to the economic output in the future.

Just my thoughts on the situation.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 2:02pm

adapt or die:
they allocated a huge amount of the budget to special needs student which to me is a major mistake.

That's a good point. Throwing money at the low achieving/low potential students seems like a waste. Giving the money where it can actually do some good with kids that have high potential makes a lot more sense to me.

Let's assume kid A is twice as far along as kid B because of his superior intellect. If a teacher can have a certain percentage impact on a kid, any time spent with kid A will generate twice the results as time spent with kid B. (example: kid A starts at 100 and kid B starts at 50; the teacher improves results by 10% with ending values of 110 and 55 respectively or twice the absolute gain for kid A). To be fair, I'm not sure if that's exactly how it works, but it seems intuitive to me. If anybody has read studies about this topic, I'd be all ears.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 1:37pm

I'm not sure if this has been posted on the site before, but it's worth watching...

“We are buried beneath the weight of information, which is being confused with knowledge; quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness. We are monkeys with money and guns.” - Tom Waits
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 2:39pm

Am I alone in thinking parents and their parental skills (or lack of) are a bigger problem? We expect too much out of teachers. I've read horror stories of parents complaining to teachers because their genius kid didn't get an A on a test. They're there to teach, not hold kids' hands and focus on that one kid who hasn't learned to sit down and shut up. Kids grow up in crappy home environments - divorce rates and single parent homes being a huge factor.

Array
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 2:46pm

Mr. Hansen:
Am I alone in thinking parents and their parental skills (or lack of) are a bigger problem? We expect too much out of teachers. I've read horror stories of parents complaining to teachers because their genius kid didn't get an A on a test. They're there to teach, not hold kids' hands and focus on that one kid who hasn't learned to sit down and shut up. Kids grow up in crappy home environments - divorce rates and single parent homes being a huge factor.

I doubt that you are alone. If the parents don't care, the student likely won't. Teachers can't really overcome that.
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 3:31pm

I've always believed in $ incentives. Of course, not every family can pay for good grades nor believes in it, but it really helped me actually want to work for the A, as opposed to settling for a B. The traditional "do your best" attitude is a huge hinderance for success, and my parents used money to overcome this. And sure, you can work hard for scholarships, but most kids are too immature and impatient to work their whole lives for something that is given to rich kids ($ for tuition)

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 3:44pm

Going Concern:
TNA:
You know what is cheaper than monetary incentives? Beating the child.

nah bro...those hospital bills will really add up...therefore i can only assume you're advocating for free healthcare

"Returning to the question of being feared or loved, I come to the conclusion that, men loving according to their own will and fearing according to that of the prince, a wise prince should establish himself on that which is in his own control and not in that of others; he must endeavour only to avoid hatred, as is noted."

Little ass whooping never hurt anyone.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 3:37pm

Side note. Anyone read through those comments?? Wow. Was that Bloomberg article linked to Reddit? People hating on the guys idea because he is a banker, talking about kids having fun, etc. What a bunch of retards.

See how much fun your grown child is having making minimum wage and losing his job. What a bunch of clowns.

Dumb people reproduce and have dumb children. Those comments confirm this to me.

  • 1
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 3:52pm

Haha but of course.

IMO, We either accept that we aren't going to produce the smartest kids when compared to China and India (because of their singular focus on STEM and education) or we adopt their methods. I don't really care since I am educated and have already gone through the system.

Americans are just soft. You have parents, friggin' parents, defending summer vacation and kids being "happy" in school. You have parents taking the kids side instead of the teachers. On and on.

I expect kids to piss and moan, but when the people who are supposed to be monitoring their child's education and advocating for their own kids sloth I simply give up.

Let's allow more education Visa's and just allow our own lazy and uneducated citizens to push a mop. Real hard for me to empathize with people who continually choose the easy route when they know full well their competition.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 3:59pm

There can be no solution if the three parties involved, the parents, the students, and the teachers, do not work together. Plain and simple. Teachers have to be willing and able to teach. Parents have to make sure that their children get their things done at home and instill the idea that education is to be something valued. Students need to be willing to accept responsibility for their actions and realize that they cannot always be saved by their parents.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 4:20pm

lol I am not talking about "get an A or a black eye". I'm talking about kicking some ass when ass deserves to be kicked (mouthing off to the teacher, not doing homework because you were out with friends, etc).

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 4:54pm

TNA:
lol I am not talking about "get an A or a black eye". I'm talking about kicking some ass when ass deserves to be kicked (mouthing off to the teacher, not doing homework because you were out with friends, etc).

i agree with ant's tiger mom strategy: sometimes, junior needs an ass beating because his only job as a kid is to not fuck up in school. he doesn't have to pay the mortgage or for the groceries or to keep the lights on. all he has to do is hit the books, and if he is not doing that job he deserves a vicious ass beating.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 5:07pm

melvvvar:
TNA:
lol I am not talking about "get an A or a black eye". I'm talking about kicking some ass when ass deserves to be kicked (mouthing off to the teacher, not doing homework because you were out with friends, etc).

what's the guido version of asian tiger moms btw? is there a word for that?

Yeah, Snooki haha

I always love the "Chinese aren't creative" dig as if the hordes of underemployed and minimum wage workers care about their origami skills. Lets be real, the people that would be helped from Tiger Mom academics aren't the creative geniuses working in NYC. They are retards who goof off in school and break bottles behind buildings.

I don't know. I enjoy opining about this stuff but I really don't care. When I was growing up I had old Encyclopedia Britannica and read the hell out of them. Now everyone has the world of knowledge on their phone. Yet people are dumber than ever. Libraries have existed for a long ass time now yet we have a 7th grade reading level.

People are just lazy and dumb. Smart people care about having smart kids. Dumb people don't know any better.

IMO, we have a bunch of smart people caring about what dumb kids are doing and having dumb parents resist anything which would make their kids smart. Enjoy minimum wage clowns.

 
Aug 27, 2012 - 5:12pm

My thoughts:

  • I'm calling bullshit on the Khan Academy and the like. Good students don't need gimmicks to interest them in the material.

  • Teaching has been done more or less the same way for the past hundred years for a reason - a teacher, blackboard, chalk, pen and paper is the best way. No need for powerpoint in math lectures, no need for students to have laptops to learn Physics, and so on.

  • All good classrooms are set out with the desks organized in rows and columns, each desk standing alone, all desks facing the front. I believe classrooms by law must be set out in this way.

  • Over the past two decades or so, the quality of high school textbooks has generally declined. Old textbooks, pre 1990, don't use gimmicks, unnecessary color, jokes, and irrelevant images, whereas new textbooks do. Read Mankiw's Intro to Econ if you need an example of an appalling textbook, and Varian's Intermediate Micro book for an example of a good book.

  • Every few years over the summer teachers should be required to pass an exam on the subject they teach, the difficulty of the exam determined by the level at which they teach. The idea here is the teachers must know inside out the material they're teaching, and ideally a great teacher wouldn't need to put in any study for these exams, they'd know the material already. Teachers that fail would get one re-sit opportunity, and should they fail that they wouldn't be allowed to teach for the year.

  • Pay teachers more, simple as that. Attract the better talent.

  • All high school teachers must have a bachelors degree, not just a teaching qualification.

  • School uniforms in every school, no exceptions. Does the military allow you to wear anything you like?

  • School lunches are currently ridiculous. Healthy options only, no exceptions.

These are all the small and simple changes that can be made to improve the dynamic of school. That said, these changes would be running against large headwinds as more and more children are growing up in a single parent household or one with unemployed parents or one in which everyone is obese.

But by far the biggest headwind is that most of the kids are spending too much time on computer/video games and not enough time outside. Learning to relate to other kids in the neighborhood, playing with a football and bikes everyday after-school for years on end teaches leadership, social skills, discipline, responsibility, creativity, and most importantly, improves ones imagination.

Quite ironically, the big players helping to "save" the American economy such as Facebook and in particular, Apple, are the chief culprits in helping destroy the framework of the country and the young American generation.

At the end of the day, part of me would love to become a teacher and play my small part in trying to turn this around. The other half of me wants to just look on and let the turkeys vote for Christmas.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 7:37am

jacksooon999:
  • Every few years over the summer teachers should be required to pass an exam on the subject they teach, the difficulty of the exam determined by the level at which they teach. The idea here is the teachers must know inside out the material they're teaching, and ideally a great teacher wouldn't need to put in any study for these exams, they'd know the material already. Teachers that fail would get one re-sit opportunity, and should they fail that they wouldn't be allowed to teach for the year.

This needs to happen but won't.

Here to learn and hopefully pass on some knowledge as well. SB if I helped.
 
Aug 27, 2012 - 5:34pm

I recall my younger brother who new that his teacher was addicted to crystal meth and routinely had her boyfriend in class with her. I asked the principal, who also happened to be my friend's Dad, why he hadn't fired her earlier. He said that he tried on multiple occasions, but was threatened and overridden by the teacher's union. He tried for two years until he actually caught her in possession on school property. You don't need massive top-down no child left behind programs or sweeping overhauls or even more money. You just need to wipe out the teachers union and allow common sense principals/principles to prevail.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 9:35am

slotmouth:
I recall my younger brother who new that his teacher was addicted to crystal meth and routinely had her boyfriend in class with her. I asked the principal, who also happened to be my friend's Dad, why he hadn't fired her earlier. He said that he tried on multiple occasions, but was threatened and overridden by the teacher's union. He tried for two years until he actually caught her in possession on school property. You don't need massive top-down no child left behind programs or sweeping overhauls or even more money. You just need to wipe out the teachers union and allow common sense principals/principles to prevail.

Aboslutely this! I'm a bit surprise ANT hasn't commented on this yet.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 12:32am

1) Most of a child's performance in school can be explained by his/her socioeconomic background.

2) We want the best and brightest to be teachers for our children, yet the overall attitude towards teachers in our country is simply vitriolic.

3) Most of the statistics from the international tests are absolute garbage because of all the flaws/inconsistencies in the testing.

4) It is pretty hard to quantify what makes a good teacher, and even then, it is hard to blame teachers when the problems are a result of #1.

5) Too many people go to college; we need to encourage apprenticeships and vocational programs.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 1:10am

I love how going to church means someone can't think for themselves, as if everyone who calls themselves a Christian is a moron. I suppose 90% of this country that classifies themselves as religious and believe in a god are all dumb.

Some people just can't hid their bias and hatred.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 10:54am

Hmmm... where do I start here... There's a lot of folks just outlining problems with no solutions, or proposing solutions that are already in place (i.e. tracking in schools, mandatory bachelor's for teachers, certification and re-certification testing, etc), or would just be a massive waste of time. From my time in the classroom, here's what I view as the leading issues and how they COULD be fixed.

1) Parent/Student value (or lack thereof) of education:

Problem: I can spend all damn day teaching you algebra, but if YOU don't care or your parents don't care enough to make sure you're doing it at home, it's the single biggest waste of time.

Solution: Pay-to-go. Have a certain amount deducted from taxes for everyone, and have parents pay a fairly meager amount of money for each kid enrolled in public school. I say $5 a day, that would need to be paid even on days of suspension and absences.

Why the hell would this do anything?: When taxes are taken out of your paycheck, you don't feel it nearly the same as if they weren't taken out and YOU had to shell it out your damn self. We cannot change a parent's mind-set on education at this stage of the game, but by tying a monetary amount to their student's attendance, they will take it a lot more seriously when said kid is tearing up school supplies, not getting the most bang for their buck, or generally screwing up.

The #'s?: Let's take good old Philadelphia for example. We have 150,000 public school students and a population of 1.5 million. Charging $5 a day for attendance would total only $900 annually per student, and $135M total. Let's assume that out of that 1.5M total pop, only 1M are taxpayers. This would save the average taxpayer $135 a year, and stop them from bitching about paying for something that they don't use (technically they do... wonder how much they would pay to NOT have those same 150K Philly school students running around during the day unsupervised). You've now saved the bitchers from bitchin' and created a monetary incentive for parents AND students to take this a little more seriously. Parents bitch? Let's compare it to the costs of a private school or hell, even a baby-sitter.

Why this won't work: I have my own reasons for why this is doomed, but I'm interested to hear you all's critiques.

I don't have time right now to do the same in depth explanation for the other problems (I'll try later) but here's the general overview of them:

2) Lengthening the school day/year: Extend school an additional 2 hours and maybe a month. Right now kids are in school for 1,260 hours. Doing this would increase that number to 1,800 hours. You could get a lot more done, tie in after-school activities, whatever.

3) The obvious; increase teacher salary and tie a bonus to performance: Lengthening time would obviously have to increase salary. But the overall base needs to go up as well. I say in the 20% range MINIMUM. If you want to attract some truly bright people to the field, they're going to need a starting salary at least in the $50K range to take it serious. For bonus, this CANNOT be tied to the state test, that will just worsen one of the core problems. If anything, tie it to gains made in reading level, or mathematical understanding. If it has to be a test, make it the SAT/ACT... something that actually matters and can be comfortably compared to students in other states/countries

4) Allocate resources more logically: I have a computer for roughly each kid in the classroom (this is an inner-city school too), that's $30K right there. A traveling cart of ipads which I'll say I can use 1/10th of the time, that's $1,500. And a bunch of other shit or "technology" in the class that I don't need or really want that much that altogether would be $50K. This helps in some senses, and definitely doesn't in others. Wanna pay me more? I just spotted a potential $50K that's a waste not counting the additional time and administrators paid to order, run, and monitor it.

5) Give schools/teachers more flexibility in disciplining students and administering a curriculum: I can't suspend most of our kids for being distractions because that will count against the school's numbers (who wants to see 400 suspensions in a year, when you can force a teacher to deal with it and bring it down to only 10?). F*** that. If someone's child is just refusing to cooperate, I need to be able to get them out so I can not waste the few precious minutes I have teaching these kids gravitational force, or some other obscure topic that needs a lot of attention. Oh... and can I please set my own schedule for when/how these kids need to learn parts of the subjects?

Do these and folks like me wouldn't be jumping shit to engineering, administration, (and since this is WSO), finance, and consulting. Speaking of which, if any of you have questions on TFA, the public education system, or the like... feel free to shoot me a PM.

Deuces.

  • IBT
 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:01am

I think the reality of it is that our education system is fine except of inner city areas which skew the data. Because people just care about the headline "America is behind XYZ country" we fret and worry about how to improve all schools, when in reality we just need to focus on the inner city bad schools.

Problem is those schools are dealing with non traditional issues. It isn't about books or teachers, it is about safety, poverty and single parent households. So you need to fix social issues instead of educational issues. And you can't fix those because it isn't something the government can do.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 10:55pm

Five Reasons Why the Education System is Broken - Khan and Coursera Time! (Originally Posted: 01/18/2017)

A brief summary of the NPR article is as follows and proposed resolutions by Professor John Hattie (Researcher in Education). My thread on Education Bashing got some heated debate on the validity and necessity of Higher Education from the College Bashing thread. A few individuals who really stirred up the debate on the other thread, namely: @Attack_Chihuaha" Paisa007 vik2000 Rags to Hermes Ehmerica jorgeapaez @dcrowoar" Gangster Putin lebron and ArcherVice. Hell, we even had the pleasure of being graced with the presence of Eddie Braverman.

Five Ways the Edu System is Jacked Up

  1. Achievement standards - "It seems to make sense to set achievement standards by grade level, but the further along students get in school, Hattie points out, the more of them are performing either behind or ahead of the schedule that's been set." [USA: No Child Left Behind, lower the bar, everyone passes]

  2. Achievement tests - "High-performing schools, and countries, don't necessarily give more standardized tests than low performers. They often give fewer." [Standardized tests are pretty bad. I'm biased because I'm a retard.]

  3. School Choice - "his research shows that once the economic background of students is accounted for, private schools offer no significant advantages over public schools, on average. The same goes for charter schools." [Steven Levitt in Freakonomics says the same thing

  4. Small Class Size - "Hattie argues, would come as a surprise to Japan and Korea, which have two of the highest-performing education systems in the world – and average class sizes of 33." [I argue that they also churn out the most robotic students of those that didn't decide to commit suicide while in school or after they join the workforce.]

  5. More Money - Korean and Finland spend $60k and $75k respectively on students until highschool graduation. USA spends $105k. Dr.Hattie says $40k is sufficient and we are overspending. [Sal Khan says we should spend zero and use https://www.khanacademy.org/]

Solutions by Dr.Hattie:
He trips over himself in this because he says that #1 can be addressed by doing #4 but #4 doesn't really matter. He wants #2 to be immediate feedback which will raise his bottom dollar on #5. He also wants the parents to vet teachers, like speed dating, to match the teacher to the student. This introduces more permutations vs. the standard assembly line approach which will increase #5, violate #1 as a funnel, and also require a different slice of #2 if the teacher current is lackluster at providing also the feedback. (Some can teach, others can coach, not everyone can do both to the same degree).

Questions for fellow Apes:

  1. What is your resolution to the aforementioned five (5) items or other issues you see?
  2. Who would you go to for partnership to implement your solution(s)?
  3. How soon (time/duration) do you realistically think the market can adopt these solution(s)?

Please don't say that you will dress up in a suit and tie, run a high production video in a coursehouse, and leave the audience with no productive solutions and hopelessly frustrated at their despondent disposition.

Reference:
1) 5 Big Ideas In Education That Don't Work
2) What Doesn't Work In Education: The Politics of Distraction

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Aug 28, 2012 - 10:56pm

By the way, in the USA as a middle-class family, it costs about $250k to raise your kid until High school Graduation for kids born 2013 and beyond. And that same number is $175k for low-income and $410k for high-income families.

So in the USA, the Tax Payer money (your money), spots $105k and you will spot around $250-410k for a total cost of raising a child until HS Graduation for about $355-515k. Holy shit... Been out of school a while now but what's the new number on the total debt load for college students these days going to private and public, normal and prestigious Universities?

Would not be surprised if:
+College/University
+MBA/Grad School
= $1mil Total $ towards Edu since Birth

Here is the calculator from WSJ's blog post on How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child?

Calculator covers children born from 1960 to 2013.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 10:58pm

Very simple. First of all, I agree with the school credit idea--E.G. you get a monthly check to send your kid wherever you want if you're below a certain income range.
Secondly, follow Bloomberg's plan for NYC--the schools review and everything.
Only thing I would change is eliminate state-based testing and install a national testing system, to make it uniform rather than the scattered testing we have throughout the states.
Eliminate the SAT and just have a single university test--I'm biased towards the ACT personally because I did better in it but I also think its the one that gives you a more complete snapshot of who the student is.
Either keep the public universities and make it kinda like a highschool application process with no application fees (I'm not saying don't charge at all, do, but just don't charge the 30/50/70 per application), or if you choose to eliminate the public education all together and sell them off (a great source of new money for the states for as long as the sales are taking place), sell off the Public colleges too.
Also, increase trade schools--specially in CS, EE, CE, and SE, since those are really critical jobsat the moment.
The last thing I would add, and this could be done by private industry or private-public partnership, is build out the online infrastructure both online and off--meaning both bandwith capacity--specially in the rural areas, and data centers.
This could create a ton of new jobs in the rural areas, what with construction for new data centers, transmission lines, celltowers etc.
And the secondary use for this would be for the creation of online k-12 operated by either the public DOE or private partners (depends whether you think the DOE should exist at all or not.)
Online colleges already exist, so extend the same structure to k-12 education.
This would be a cool "nice-to-have" for cities, but could prove crucial for rural areas--let's face it, there are tons of forgotten people in the rural areas who don't have education, or at least a complete one, for countless reasons, so this could solve that issue, while creating jobs and increasing the private sector's infrastructure, from which a lot of other stuff could be created E.G. openings for online telecommuting jobs, etc. that doesn't currently exist.
(I know of 1 guy who literally couldn't even have a gig on his cell connection because the infrastructure was too far away and in general couldn't handle that type of traffic.)
That would be my fix, along with the currently developped Common Core--and yes, if you're going to keep Public Education around then I completely support common core.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 10:59pm

My familiarity with education funding is that it comes out of property taxes, so the neighborhoods with expensive houses got more money for their schools. Not really an equal opportunity. Oh I know, they pay more so you think it's "OK." Would we be better off with better education for everyone? Not a zero sum compromise, but an actual national priority to invest and build up the education system in every zipcode. I'd say we would be better off in the end. Cut things like defense spending and bureaucratic inefficiency. Surely defense isn't the only industy we could cut back on.

But that implies America would accept a solution that isn't zero sum and would actually put forth a national agenda ahead of partisan identity. It will never happen.

And yes, raising a child is expensive.

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Aug 28, 2012 - 11:06pm

I'll admit that my surroundings are not extremely diverse (middle class to upper middle class), but this literally couldnt be further from the truth. I have 2 toddlers and all friends, neighbors, parents at school, etc..... emphasize the hell out of education. My wife and many friends are teachers and one of their main issues is parents getting too involved (my wife got a parent call a few weeks ago because a kid got a B on a homework assignment).

I'm sure there are some parents that don't care, but this is a pretty dumb generalization.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy
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Aug 28, 2012 - 11:04pm

What's wrong in this country is the brainwashing of the last generation that says everyone can and should go to college.

Both premises are flawed. Some kids aren't smart enough. A lot of kids would be better off in trade-schools or two-year professional programs.

A bachelor degree is meaningless. So many just spend four years drinking or partying and leave college with a diploma and no real skills.

If you need to know where someone went to college for their degree to mean anything, it's a sign that going to college just for the sake of going to college is a waste of money.

Kids need to be educated about alternate opportunities, and develop their passions during high school. Spending four years of your life and a bunch of your parents money just to figure out what you want to do is not a sustainable model.

Figure out what you might be interested in in middle school. Explore options in high school. Decide whether to/where to go for college and stick to the plan.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:05pm

I decided to browse WSO while taking a break from my Finance Valuations course from CourseEra; funny that I stumbled on it. I am at a top state college in NJ with a 3.75 GPA and I can tell you, from experience, that learning on CourseEra has been much more informative and productive than taking college courses. College is a game: take the right professors, the right courses, understand your professor's testing style, know how to study for certain exams, and you shouldn't end up with anything less than a 3.5. Sadly, all of the effort is spent on getting the A and less is spent actually retaining information. I have to go to CourseEra/Khan Academy to study at my own pace and really dig deep into the material I am learning. Sadly I only have time for this on breaks (don't worry, its not all I do on breaks). Its pretty ridiculous that my family has to spend money on school just so that I can signal to potential employers that I have intellectual ability and passion. The college system is inefficient and the market is saturated with students who have degrees and no functional knowledge.
The solution I believe in is online schooling & Co-Op/career development programs. If an individual is not motivated enough to get his degree using online schooling, he/she should not be pursuing a degree. Co-Op programs allow students to apply the knowledge they learn through schooling and get a deep understanding of the material that they learn on their own. This is the collaboration approach. Have the discipline to learn basic skills on your own and prove yourself by applying yourself in a career development program.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:16pm

Coursera, edx, and Khan meets Quora and coaching staff/mentors.

Then you either publish for professors in academia, become a skilled operator in ABC job working for XYZ, or you create new industries.

It's the classic hunter gatherer village adopted for 21st century. School as an institution has very little value. It churns out people to think all the same and syncs them to the hive mindset via the tools you've mentioned to standardized individuals into predictable and measurable machines.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:11pm

That is because more than 50% of us (including me) came from upper middle class families with incomes above $100K and/or a heavy value on education placed by our families.

Our education system needs meaningful reform. Meanwhile, Education Secretary Nominee Devos talked in her confirmation hearing about allowing guns in schools in case of grizzly bear attacks and was consistently confused by basic questions on education policy.

I am all for trying out conservative reforms for our education system (except Creationism). Yet Trump chose a blithering moron over HUNDREDS of competent conservative education reformers that have spent decades working in our nation's schools and administrations.

Array
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Aug 28, 2012 - 11:23pm

I'd say it's pretty naive to dismiss comparisons between Singapore and U.S. just because the countries are different. In terms of improving test scores in math, science, and reading on the PISA exam there are certainly things we can learn from countries that score better if we want to improve our scores. That being said, DeepLearning did a good job explaining why our poor test scores comparatively aren't necessarily a bad thing.

To answer your question, U.S. didn't break top 20 on average in any of the 3 categories (science, math, and reading).

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:22pm

What the U.S. education system lacks in high test scores, it makes up for in fostering innovation/creative thinking. In Asia and Europe they drill math/science. The U.S. allows students to find passions for themselves instead of drilling those passions out of them. Not saying the U.S. education system doesn't need improvement but just remember that you give up something pretty special when you start emulating the education systems of higher scoring countries.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:25pm

Excellent point and it shows in the fact that America is a hub of much of the world's innovation today. Creativity/innovation in U.S. is also due to many other factors (economy, availability of startup funds, etc.), so I'd be interested to see how students from Singapore (or any country that tests well) fare in a similar environment with their educations.

In my experience, it doesn't feel like we place an emphasis on creativity that would compensate for the lack of emphasis on science and math.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:59pm

This is kinda a false equivalency - there are many reasons why the US ranks much lower largely in part because we 1) much higher poverty rates that other OCED countries, and 2) have decentralized education system and those tests benefit countries with a standardized curriculum.

This doesn't discount your point of higher levels of creativity and what not but that isn't why our test scores are lower.

 
Best Response
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:26pm

Parents that dont give a fuck and a broken system that does not have the resources to make up for it... I know a fifth grade teacher at a title one school and most of the school's students enter the 1st grade not knowing the alphabet or how to count (many do not even speak English)... They enter school already "behind grade-level" (based on State standards) and never have a shot at catching up. These students naturally demand more of the teacher's time, which takes away from the student on grade level. So by year's end, if you are lucky, you have one 1st grade student who just learned the alphabet and how to count and another who did not learn what he was supposed to, since the teacher had to teach to the lowest common denominator. Now two students are behind grade-level. Compound this over 11 more years and you have a our educational system.

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Aug 28, 2012 - 11:30pm

What I notice in Australia and probably relates some what to the US is parents not putting enough time in reading to their children/teaching them basic numeracy. This can be down to a few reasons, firstly sometimes both full time working parents simply don't have enough time to read to their children, which I can't really fault. The other main reason is that parents simply don't give a fuck when it comes to their children.

Having lived in Singapore for the early part of my life and education, I am going to generalise but I think it mostly is down to Singaporean parents pushing their children harder at school compared to the states.
'

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:34pm

1 - As some of you said, parental involvement counts: In some Asian countries parents really push their children hard to excel in school. I've lived in Japan and Taiwan and some parental behaviour there would definitely raise some eyebrows in my country as being too radical. Remember that Tiger Mom lady? Not so dramaticized as that but along the same lines.
This is not to say parents need to be drill sargeants. Research has shown that even reading to/with kids improve their cognitive skills later on. I believe most countries with poor PISA rankings may have a relatively low degree of parental involvement when compared to, say, top 20 countries.

2 - Teaching model x Tests: You have many countries with good PISA results where the teaching model is based in cramming, repeating test scripts for hours and hours, training fast calculation and memorizing data. This would likely result in good results in standardized testing.

3 - Overall student "level": As mentioned before, the case where teachers need to accomodate students who can barely read with others who are in the "normal" level end up lowering the overall level of that class. I am not sure the situation in the US, but here this is unfortunatelly common. People end up joining college as functional illiterates.

4 - Maybe teacher pay/structure counts too?

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:35pm

@TNA basically has it right. Yes, it's handicapping the situation for the United States, but our public schools are actually pretty good--the problem is our inner city schools are a complete disaster. Without seeing the actual stats, I'd surmise that if you removed America's inner cities from the test score pool you'd probably find that the U.S. tests just fine. Our inner cities, however, are unbelievable disasters. Also, the U.S. has a sizeable immigrant population. I reside in a wealthy school district that has a lot of Hispanic (read: non-English speaking) immigrants who devastate test score averages (not because they're dumb but because they don't speak English!), and they utilize a disproportionate amount of budgetary resources (my brother is a math specialist appointed to a low-income school just to help with the immigrant population).

Array
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Aug 28, 2012 - 11:36pm

1) Nobody fucking takes the PISA in America, fuck that.

2) I blame it on two things : Teacher's Unions and College Board

The reasoning for Unions is because American teachers have an immense luxury with their 10-year contracts. They basically can't be removed from their position unless they sexually assault a kid. I had a fucking teacher who asked an american-born chinese student for his green card in order for her to hand him a homework packet. Guess what, she kept teaching for ages to come with not even a slap on the wrist. The teachers union allow teachers to have too much job security that causes laziness in their teaching abilities and they don't care about what grades their students get. In my opinion, teachers should be paid based on performance, not on a fixed salary. If a teacher is doing extremely well, engaging his/her students, helping them score incredibly high, they will still be paid the exact amount as a teacher who gives packets to their students while they surf facebook all day. That's some communist bullshit. So why should the good teacher try, right?

As for College Board : it is a for-profit organization (Despite the non-profit title they claim) that provides tests that have no real skills or applications to the real world. Their objective is to twist questions up and make them so confusing its almost like they want to force students to pay to re-take the test. With this being so heavily focused upon in college admissions, students focus on learning and memorizing a test and ways to attack the test, rather than legitimate content. This builds a lack of critical reasoning skills and intellectual depth since the tests are way to quantitative. While this isn't directly related to the US scoring lower on these exams, still is a problem with the general education of America.

Just my two (very long) cents.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:37pm

People cry foul about lack of job opportunities...well...where I work at (tech), there's a lot of positions available. Kids in college want the easy way out and do not want to work hard for a better future. There's a shortage of STEM, thus why we have to import people to fill those needs.

Our system lacks the basic checks and balances.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:39pm

I've gone to school full time in two different countries- both in the U.S. and in my home country. Here are some things that I noticed:

  1. U.S. educators love teaching tests. They will give you practice tests to take home, pre-tests to test out of the actual test, create their tests from homework problems verbatim, etc. This does not foster learning so much as it just gets students to take the practice and pre-tests and do their homework.

  2. U.S. educators teach at the lowest common denominator's level. The way U.S. educators teach foreign languages (and English itself) is a great example of this. I don't know a single American who took Spanish from elementary school through high school and is fluent as a result. In the U.S. foreign languages are taught as a "look, we're multicultural" check the box thing. In my home country, students take English starting in first grade and then take another language starting in fifth grade. Most students in my home country graduate as tri-lingual and speak better English than 90% of Americans (minus the obvious lack of idioms).

  3. The U.S. teaches math and science very formulistic. If you memorize a set of formulas, chances are you can get straight "A"s in grade level math and science. This would never be possible in my home country as math and science is taught conceptually. The formulas that you might use for certain math and science problem are obviously still relevant, but they come secondary to the concepts. To better understand this, think about ib interviews. Who does better in an ib interview: the kid who rattles off the WACC formula or the kid who understands the underpinning of what WACC is?

Just my two cents.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:40pm

With all respect to Estonians and Slovenians on this website and around the world, how does their schooling differ from the rest of the eastern bloc countries? I cant say that i assumed those countries would rank as impressively as they did, which i can admit is probably more a bias/ignorance on my part.

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:41pm

One of my professors told us, "school is a supplement to what is learned in the home." As a few people mentioned already, some parents are expecting the public school system to raise their kids. That is almost always not good.

I worked at a desk next to an electrical engineer's office when I was in grad school, he was in his late 70's or early 80's, and he could recite paragraphs of classic literature, had his multiplication tables memorized up to 16 x 16, you get the idea. Now yes, he is probably above average, but I don't think I was even exposed to half of that in school.

Also mentioned above which I agree with is that teaching to the test, teaching to the lowest common denominator, and teaching kids to memorize and regurgitate, but not to think, is a very bad practice. People say that in college you learn how to learn, but we need to get back to teaching kids how to think at a younger age.

Honestly, the whole situation is such a massive clusterfuck it's hard to know where to begin, but I think there are many good points in this thread.

  • 3
 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:46pm

Haha +1 to the last point. It is such a clusterfuck and a structural problem that idk what anyone can do about it. The country would need a long-term education plan that spanned multiple administrations, along with greater incentives for households to stress education at home (Do not read that as monetary, but competition into school systems etc.).

 
Aug 28, 2012 - 11:50pm
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