Senate How should Education be reformed?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ghost, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Grading on the curve, teaching to the lowest common denominator, multiple choice questions - often results in grade inflation and sufficient "Evidence" of mastering the subject. At least in the 70's when I was in high school. Heck, in some classes you were almost guaranteed a "C" just for showing up, regardless of course work.
  2. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    I was going to mention this. High schools simply aren't in a position to hold back everybody that deserves to be held back, in the event that a significant portion of a class deserves to be held back. Eventually the capacity of the school would be exceeded. In order for the facility to continue functioning normally, some undeserving students have to be passed through. It sucks but there's a certain inevitability to it.
  3. Lady_Sami_J_Kenobi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    The kids need to be held back in the early grades, especially if they are having trouble reading. Reading is the foundation of all other skills in school.
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  4. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Several years back, I outlined my own proposal for education reform that was supposed to target the root cause of the problem.

    The key to all of it is that we need to cultivate a desire for learning in kids when they are young. If you teach kids how to learn early, they will continue to be able to learn when they get older. A student in middle school who can't read doesn't need remedial classes. He needs to be sent back to elementary school. Students should only be in middle or high school once they've shown that they can actually do work on that level.

    How do you do all of that? The first step is that you need to get parents involved. Without parents, you cannot succeed, because the kids are only at school for about 30-40 hours each week. If their lessons aren't reinforced in the other 128 hours of the week (or 72 hours, if you take out 8 hours for sleep each day), they won't be able to retain the lessons as well. I think a lot of this goes back to the shift from single-income married households to either two-income married households or single-income single-parent households. When a parent is able to spend more time with their children, it is a great benefit to their education. When that parent (or both parents) are absent due to work, the little family time that results just isn't sufficient to do all of that.

    Second, you need to find a way to tailor the classes to the students. Because of this, I am a big proponent of school choice. If Johnny is more of an audio/visual learner, and Billy learns better from books, and Janet is more of a tactile learner, it is almost impossible to accommodate all three of them in the same class. On the other hand, if a school district can create specialized schools that offer different styles of teaching, it becomes easier to accommodate those different styles.

    Third, you need to both set goals and hold people accountable for meeting those goals. That means you need to measure your progress and make changes when you aren't meeting the goals. This applies both to the students themselves as well as to the teachers and the schools. If a child isn't learning, then you need to change things so that he can learn. If a teacher or school is unable to get the job done, then something needs to change, because if the student didn't learn, the teacher didn't actually teach. This means that you don't promote kids unless they actually develop the skills required, and you don't promote or retain teachers or administrators who don't generate results.

    Finally, you need to actually challenge the students. If you never push your limits, you can never expand them. In order to taste success, you have to risk failure. Most children are naturally curious and want to learn. However, something in our current system seems to kill that desire as they get older. By challenging them (with problems that they can solve, but would have to actually work at solving), it helps maintain that natural curiosity and their successes will encourage them to push themselves farther.

    Along with reforms for elementary education, I would also institute stronger support for community colleges (as opposed to 4-year colleges). As an example, my local community college acts as both a junior college and as a trade school. They offer Associate degrees, but they also offer classes ranging from heating/cooling systems repair to automotive maintenance. They provide GED classes, and present people options to continue their educations. If we strengthen those programs, it will help not only those who currently lack education, but also those who have education, but need to be retrained for other work. (For example, my wife is considering entering their nursing program, even though she already has a BA in Linguistics. She would get an Associates in Nursing, but it would only cost about $11000 over two years, and she would be a licensed RN at the end of it.)

    Community colleges can be a wonderful tool to help countless people improve their lives. For some, they will give the skills they need to work in the trade of their choice. For others, they can be a stepping stone to a 4-year school. For still others, they can be a way to shift their career mid-life. And yet, they tend to be sorely neglected in the rush to send people off to a 4-year school.
  5. Valairy Scot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2005
    star 5
    Making sure a child comprehends the subject rather than just parroting back the answers or guessing well on tests should be a goal. I never "got" some aspects of math despite averaging "B's" in it (only went thru Geometry and found that tough at times). We had fractions in fifth grade, I think and I was always thrown by those Train A travels at 30 mph while Train B travels at 60 mph on a 100 mile track - where do they crash? I never understood what the question had to do with fractions and one day wandering around at lunch in my 20's or 30's I suddenly realized: hey, fractions. Unfortunately, throw me some more of those questions and I'd again go, "uh?" I don't use fractions in my occupation but I'm suddenly running into some similar type math questions on some job apps (even though they are not pertinent to the applied for job).
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  6. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Well, I think the problem there is we refuse to hold back students. So math is dumbed down and the concepts are avoided so that everyone gets just enough to get by, without any deeper understanding.
  7. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Reciting facts is no good if you don't understand the stuff behind those facts.
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  8. Obi-Ewan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2000
    star 4
    Get rid of all this standardized testing. It takes too much time away from learning. At my school things shut down for two whole weeks for an intense review period. Imagine what we could do with that time if we didn't have to review for a state-mandated test with all the cloak and dagger that involved, and if our entire school's effectiveness were not based on how the students perform on a single assessment?
  9. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    To the various people condemning the decline in "holding students back" I'll note it wasn't simply motivated by social concerns or resources issues. There is actual data showing that for a variety of reasons, students who are held back often continue to perform very poorly, and in many cases would have done better to simply have been promoted and played catch-up. Think it over: the child now doubts his own ability, all his new, younger classmates can readily tease him for being "stupid" and he has to confront the same things he couldn't grasp the first time. The effects on the child's psyche cannot really be ignored here, and it is these calculations that had a good deal to do with the change in approach.
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  10. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    That might be true to a point (primarily in elementary school), but we have clearly gone far past that point.

    When you have only 31% of 8th graders (and a similar percentage of 12th graders) able to read at the proficiency standard for their grade level, social promotion isn't going to help them. (Source) By the time you've reached middle school (7-8th grade, and sometimes 6th grade, depending on the school system) social promotion will hurt the student far more than it will help them. And, if we are looking at 12th grade, a student has no business getting a high school diploma if they can't fulfill the basics needed to earn it. That only devalues that same diploma for those students who can do the work.

    Being held back a grade can be a very good thing for a student. I know from personal experience. I repeated 4th grade, largely because of my age. My birthday is in December and I started school in Hawaii. Hawaii's rules set the age cutoff to start school at a birthday on or before Dec 31. When we moved to Virginia, the age cutoff was on or before Sep 30, with exceptions made until Oct 31. As a result I was a year younger than everyone else in my class and heavily picked on because of it. When I repeated 4th grade, I became one of the older students, and was more respected as a result. (For the record, I later caught up with my former classmates by attending college a year early on a concurrent enrollment program, essentially skipping my Senior year.)
  11. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Those aren't facts about the question of benefit vs harm from holding people back, they're just general facts about the impacts of low literacy. You are making an argument based on a combination of personal anecdote and "common sense." Often times, those two serve us well. But far too often, we get results that surprise us when we look at data. Finding the optimal balance for when and when not to advance students should be grounded in research about that actual topic.
  12. morrison85 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 13, 2005
    star 5
    I don't know that much about american education, apart from credits in high school already and these multiple choice tests... I think both are rather dodgy. Sounds like the schools only there to learn stuff by heart. also I have heard that stuff that is learnt in year 11 and 12 is only part of the curriculum in colleges in the US. Maybe that was just one specific school (heard it from an exchange student)
    Another thing that i think is strange is that no one in the US seems to write in cursive, because they don't teach it at school. Sometimes I see those written notes at fb pages or whatever and I think they look like a preschoolers handwriting or first grader when they are actually 4 or 5 th graders or later. I think cursive is good it is so much more fluent than print.
    Cabt say too much about learning to read in the US after all learning to read English as a frist language is different to german which is a lot more phonetic (not as phonetic as finnish) but still you can just put letter on letter and read a word and it comes out right..

    I don't know how bad grade inflation is in the US but if it is any way as bad as UK... I have heard horrible things from the UK. like getting an A for reaching 60 % .... I don't think grade inflation is a problem in germany, it is bound to the percentages in all subjects, so you only get an A(1) if you have 90% right (of a test for example) and the cut off mark for the last "good" grade is 55 %. ( German is 1 to 6 1,2,3 are acceptable grades 4,5,6 arent with 5 being a potential failing grade)
    Last edited by morrison85, Sep 23, 2012
  13. Kimball_Kinnison Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2001
    star 6
    Those statistics were meant to illustrate part of the problem, as well as a specific flaw in your argument.

    If 69% of 8th graders are unable to read at the proficiency level for their grade, then they didn't get that way over the course of one year. They weren't reading at the 7th grade level and simply failed to advance. The fact that a similar percentage of 12th graders are also unable to read at their proficiency level for their grade reinforces that they aren't catching up as a result of social promotion. At best, they aren't falling any further behind. At worst, they aren't progressing at all.

    If social promotion helped them to "catch up" as you claimed, then you would expect improvement between the 8th and 12th grade statistics.
  14. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    If we don't constantly promote the mediocre and incompetent, where will we get our future bureaucrats from?
  15. GenAntilles Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 24, 2007
    star 4
    Don't you know? People come and go, bureaucrats are forever.
  16. Lady_Sami_J_Kenobi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 31, 2002
    star 6
    There was an article in yesterday's news that said that SAT scores are at an all-time low for reading comprehension.
  17. Obi-Ewan Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2000
    star 4
    There is actual data showing that for a variety of reasons, students who are held back often continue to perform very poorly, and in many cases would have done better to simply have been promoted and played catch-up. Think it over: the child now doubts his own ability, all his new, younger classmates can readily tease him for being "stupid" and he has to confront the same things he couldn't grasp the first time.

    I think there is a difference between mindless social promotion and recognizing that, despite a low numerical grade, a student has shown an ability to learn and could still be successful the next year. I won't deny that students who were socially promoted sometimes have an entitlement attitude, but at the same time you can't base a student's final grade in the class on cold mathematics.

    The lowest grade I will record in my grade book is a 50, because that's much easier to recover from than a 20 (especially in the student's mind). And if a kid comes up with a 68, but I know he has kicked his own butt to get there, I have no problem bumping him up to a 70, simply because I know how hard he worked and I want to encourage him to keep doing so.

    I won't necessarily agree that all his younger classmates tease him. The truth is arguably even worse: in the area I work in, there are a lot of poor kids, for whom education is not always a priority, and I have a fair number who, based on their age alone, either started late or were held back. For some of them, this may happen so often they perceive it as normal, that failure is inevitable.
  18. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    That explains a lot.
  19. Jedi Merkurian Episode VII Thread-Reaper

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    May 25, 2000
    star 6
    I think that Kimball is spot-on that a critical aspect of improving education is to cultivate a “culture of learning.” I’d also agree that parental buy-in is a crucial part of that process. Likewise, I agree that the shift from dual-parent/single-earner to dual-earner and single-parent/single-earner has had all manner of detrimental effects on that culture of learning. However, the question is: what to do about that? This, I think, is something that won’t be fixed quickly, as it involves a generational shift in education. It’s a topic probably better addressed in the “Income Inequality” thread.

    Another aspect of the “culture of learning” is that we have to overcome our worship of entertainers, and I lump pro athletes in with entertainers for purposes of this discussion. For those who are all about the dollars, there needs to be a concerted effort to drive home a couple of points made humorously by Chris Rock: “LeBron James is rich. The man who signs his checks is wealthy,” and “Bill Gates would kill himself if he only had Oprah’s money!” Alternately invite members of various industries to guest-speak in schools, and have field trips to see how those various industries actually operate. Not just like when “Officer Friendly” would come to visit school when I was in elementary school, or a field trip to a farm, but banking, military, science, auto mechanics, you name it. Give people the opportunity to represent their chosen fields, and give kids a chance to see what actually goes on in those fields. And not just at the elementary level either; this should be an ongoing process, all the way through to the high school level.

    In addition to the abolition of the nine month school year, I think there needs to be a great deal of re-tooling of curriculum. This may sound wacky to some, but here goes: early-on, and periodically throughout the elementary and high school years, we should implement aptitude testing geared to identify each student’s strengths, and recommend career training based on those test results. To be clear, this is not meant as some sort of social engineering, simply that it’s a way to identify aptitudes. Likewise, while early testing would help with getting started on the right foot, periodic re-testing all the way through high school would work to either affirm earlier results or avoid railroading students down a sub-optimal career path.

    As part of that career path training, in addition to abandoning our entertainer worship, we also need to give up our worship of the 4+ year college degree. Not all career choices should require a degree. Technical courses, apprenticeships, trade schools, all should be equally valid options for post-secondary education.
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  20. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    In yesterday's State of the Union address, President Obama said this on Education Reform:



    What does everyone think about helping the states come up with Universal Pre-K?

    I thought his proposal on allowing more students to graduate from high school with an associate's degree could be very helpful too, though that we need some major reform of most high schools' curriculum.

    I'm not sure about how the President plans to implement that third education proposal (which I bolded), "so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid." How exactly would that work? And does anyone have a link to this new "College Scorecard" which should now be out?
    Last edited by Summer Dreamer, Feb 13, 2013
  21. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    Working in Early childhood with low-income families, I think this would be a great thing. However, I have absolutely no confidence in the government being able to do this in an effective way. The school districts are hopelessly incapable of doing this well and it will cost a great deal of money if they do try. I would love to be hopeful about it, but maybe valentines day has me in a bitter place. ;-)
  22. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    We had to do a group project back senior year on Education reform. I can't remember what my group had to do. I want to say what type of schooling. (semesters, quarters or year round) but I'm not sure. I wish we could do quarters. I might be biased because of college since we only had to go 10-11 weeks for 3 quarters while under semesters which started August this past year 14-15 weeks for 2 semesters.
  23. SoloKnight Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 13, 2003
    star 4
    Doesn't California have statewide Pre-K already? I would like it if it allowed teachers to recommend kids for kindergarten on an individual basis instead of just "You're 5, you go. You're 4, you stay." Some kids born in the fall are perfectly ready to start kindergarten when they're 4 (turning 5) but are forced to wait a year due to cut off dates.

    Looking at secondary schools for a moment, there are three high schools in my town. When I was in high school (I graduated '05) they were all pretty much the same except one was much stronger academically and one was much stronger performing arts wise (the third was where all the future drug dealers went.)

    Now, one has an engineering academy, one has a culinary academy, and one has a health care academy and is looking at adding an entrepreneur academy. All these academies start sophomore year. I'm not sure how I feel about all this specialization. On the one hand, if you're 100% sure at 15 that you want to be an engineer, great, now you have some extra tools to help. On the other hand, how many kids know what they want at 15? I feel like we're forcing teenagers to decide earlier and earlier and they're going to get on a tract they don't want to be on. Heck, my sophomore year I thought I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. Then I took AP Physics and Calculus. That killed any engineering desire in me.

    And as for reforming universities. I think no public universities should have athletics programs beyond club sports and IMs. Most of them are just money pits. Do any European universities have sports teams? I thought if you wanted to go pro in Europe you joined a club team or went to a sports academy or something. That's how I think the US should be.
  24. darth-calvin Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2002
    star 1
    I believe most states have pre-K programs, but they are not a requirement and they usually involve a signifcant cost.
  25. SHAD0W-JEDI Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2002
    star 3
    I am not at all optimistic about it ever happening, but I would love to see more discussion, across society, about the quality of students/parents, and our cultural attitudes about/real support for education, in addition to talking about the physical aspects of schooling (buildings, computers, textbooks, facilities, etc) and the "personnel" aspects of schooling (teachers, administrators, class size, etc). I think there is a fair amount of discussion of those latter two elements - in fact, they are largely the only things to be discussed - whereas there is fairly little discussion of the former.

    Maybe it is time we had some honest dialogue about things like the impact of two working parents, or one working parent in single-parent households, about parental attitudes and involvement, about attitudes concerning homework and grades and reading and the like. I am not discounting the importance of money in this equation, but it feels to me like the discussion in large measure is "just" about money, as if spending more guarantees better educational outcomes, when I don't think that is necessarily the case at all. The US spends a LOT on education, per student -- more than many nations that easily outperform us. And our "solutions" always seem to boil down to "spend more and more". I think it is more complex than that. But as I noted at the start, I don't see this kind of discussion getting a lot of traction, especially from politicians, since it could be seen as an implicit criticism of the attitudes and practices of many parents.

    That being said - I do think it makes sense to uncouple school funding from property taxes. That is a system that pretty much guarantees that those who live in the poorest areas already will have the least educational resources. That seems a prescription for failure.

    Shadow

    PS - Would be nice if we, collectively, could also be harshly honest with ourselves, about our OVERALL priorities. The major city closest to where I live has found tax payer money to help fund the building of at least one big stadium, while there aren't enough textbooks in the area schools so that each student can get his or her own copy to work from. That is a societal choice. We should be honest about it.
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