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Charter schools, Standardized Tests and the Tianamen Square Effect

Parent facing down the Educational Establishment

Parent facing down the Educational Establishment

Vastleft’s post on the NEA’s response to Obama’s education plans reminded me of piece I had seen in the NYTimes last week just before I went on vacation.  In Dangling Money, Obama Pushes Education Shift, the Obama agenda on education starts to crystallize as an increase in charter schools and an emphasis on standardized tests.

Now, before I get into this further I want to make three things absolutely clear: 1.) I’m no Obama fan because he doesn’t make policy based on principle so what is he up to?  2.) I am a strong supporter of teacher’s *labor* unions.  3.) I don’t like No Child Left Behind for many reasons, the main one being that it seems to be designed to make public education unpalatable so that many of us don’t want to support it anymore.  That being said, Obama’s plans are pretty reasonable as long as they don’t undermine the strength of the teacher’s labor unions and I’ll tell you why.  But first, an antecdote.

During my brief tenure as a school board member (I only ran for one term), my personal mission was to change the curriculum of our school district.  My district is about 10 miles from Princeton but it definitely couldn’t compete with Princeton or the school district I had recently left, West Windsor-Plainsboro, which is where many Princeton people live.  Central Jersey is chock full of high tech, pharmaceutical and academic types.  But what is really interesting is what you will find in graduate level classes at universities like Princeton and Rutgers, especially in the hard sciences.  Almost everyone is asian.  This is not a biased remark.  It is simply reality.  In fact, my brainiac #2 child took a 5 week algebra course at Rutgers Prep this summer and was the only caucasian in the class.

We noticed it at work as well.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s, labs across the state got an influx of Chinese scientists.  I called it the Tianamen Square Effect.  Many of these Chinese students came after the failed uprising.  The lucky ones got out and came to the states to study.  They told us stories about what education is like in China.  It’s grueling.  There are standardized tests, high stakes standardized tests, constantly.  Those tests determine whether you will be able to go to a good school and study or whether you will end up making widgets in a factory somewhere.  It is really important to do well and parents push their children hard.

So, back in my days on the school board, I brought this up to the curriculum supervisors and asked why we weren’t performing at least at the same level as Princeton and West Windsor-Plainsboro where there was much more rigor and a more challenging curriculum in math and science?  The attitude I was met with might be described as, “So what?  They just do “drill and kill”.  Chinese students aren’t creative.  They just imitate everything we do.  We Americans have nothing to worry about.”  (Education propaganda is about as difficult to kill as the stuff that emanates from Rush Limbaugh.)  Educators seem all too willing to believe what other educators tell them but easily dismiss what people who work in the real world tell them.

I’ll tell you why we have to worry.  While their billions of children were clawing their way up the academic ladder, ours were coddled to the point of being completely useless to anyone but the finance industry.  Oh sure, we educate a lot of future accountants and teachers but future researchers of America who can use the scientific method or think rationally?  Not so much.  It is the sheer numbers of well educated Chinese and Indians that should be alarming to us.  Their populations are much bigger than ours, therefore the number of hard science graduates they have is also much bigger.  And those so-called imitative automatons are beating the pants off us in the world of outsourcing.  Why should American companies hire expensive American scientists when Indian PhDs are a dime a dozen in Hyderabad?  And yes, these same American companies don’t think twice about giving those PhD’s the boring, tedious work that *used* to be done by scientists with four year degrees.  So, if the US wants to re-establish its innovative bona fides, we have got to get crackin’ or send our kids to China for 12 years so they’re ready to compete when they get to college. It won’t be long before those Chinese and Indian scientists are inventing the next internet.

So, I was pained to see the NEA come out against charter schools.  I understand it but it still shows that they just don’t get it.  Or they get it but they’re in denial.  There is a HUGE problem with the US education establishment that will become a serious obstacle to any change in policy.  It is not unionization.  It is preparation.  Our teachers are simply not equipped to teach world class math and science.  I think this is part of the resistance to standardized testing.  It is very hard to teach standards which you do not understand.  Most teachers can handle the early grades fairly well.  It’s when children hit the intermediate grades that we have problems.  Here’s how the problem plays out in NJ:

Every child in our school district takes a statewide stadardized test called the NJASK.  A child is ranked partially proficient, proficient and advanced proficient based on the NJASK and is *supposed* to put into a class based on their score.  So, partially proficient kids should get extra help, proficient kids are the vast majority of students.  But what about the advanced proficient kids?  As I said before, in the early grades, teachers can differentiate their curriculum a bit.  But once they hit middle school, the advanced proficients meet the K-8 teacher certification limit.  At this point, teachers aren’t required to teach anything more than algebra I and most aren’t required to do that anyway with the vast majority of students taking pre-algebra.  So, if a kid scores at the top of the advanced proficiency range, there may not be enough room for him/her in the single class of 21 kids that gets the benefit of the single teacher in the school that is qualified to teach them advanced algebra I and geometry.  This is what happened to Brook last year.  She’s at the top of the advanced proficiency range and does very well on her math tests.  But she refused to do her homework. So she ended up repeating pre-algebra. (For some reason, teachers are convinced that every child has to do the same homework, whether they’ve mastered the material or not.  I’d give them homework on stuff they don’t already know but that requires a different curriculum and it’s so much easier to blame the kid and reinforce bad study habits.  Ok, the kid has an attitude problem too but I digress…)

What we do with these advanced proficients who don’t show zealous attention to their homework is we hold them back in 7th and 8th grade.  We slow them down so they don’t peak in algebra too soon, leaving them nothing to do for 2 years.  In the meantime, these kids start hating the subject matter.  It’s goes too slowly and it’s too easy.  They develop poor study habits.  We level them off to the same proficiency as their peers.  Wonderful. But it doesn’t stress the teachers and that seems to be the point.  We can reward teachers for taking continuing education credits and getting masters degrees but these classes seem limited to learning new pedagogy, not content.  And some curriculum supervisors admit that their teachers are afraid of science and math, especially in the lower grades.  They want pre-digested lesson plans and packets that can you can just add water and serve.  Nothing too stressful.

It’s not that these teachers are incapable of learning math and science to world class standards.  It’s just that we don’t make them do it.  We fall victim to the “guide on the side, not sage on the stage”, “drill and kill” and “we shouldn’t be teaching to the test” propaganda, but these memes are just smokescreens.  Take the last one for example.  We are talking about *standardized* tests.  That means that standards were to be taught.  If a teacher’s class hasn’t been learning the standards all year that are expected by local, state, and the national authorities, what the f^*) has the class been learning?  NO teacher should be cramming in the weeks leading up to a test.  The standards are there to be used as guidelines as to what is expected to be learned.  If teachers do not like the standards or are incapable of teaching them, they can always go into finance.  I personally don’t like New Jersey’s standards because they are fuzzy and indistinct, but by golly, the NJASK is a hard test so somebody better know how to teach this stuff.

What frosts my crockies is that many parents like myself and my internationally trained colleagues can’t afford to live in Princeton.  So, we’re stuck in these suburban school districts were “all of the children above average”.  And that’s it.  There is no pushing limits.  Teachers act as gatekeepers to the tiny number of slots in the enriched classes and the selection process appears to be subjective.  Many of my colleagues resort to sending their kids to Saturday Chinese schools or summer programs at local prep schools.  The local schools simply refuse to accommodate accelerated math and science programs for their middle schoolers.  If that’s the case, why shouldn’t we, the taxpayers, choose to allocate some of our hard earned money to a charter school, staffed by union teachers but teaching curriculum at a world class level?  What exactly is the problem?  That diverting some of the money from the general population would be a detriment to the students?  When we expect our children to perform at the level of our Asian counterparts, maybe they will have made a case.  But right now, we ask far too little in order to compete at an international level.  It’s time we asked more of our teachers.  For starters, let’s ask them to stop holding back our best students.

Teachers, educate yourselves.

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83 Responses

  1. ugh…charter schools are a failed experiment.
    Standardized tests – one big reason NCLB is a sack of s#$%
    The only good thing I can say about this is…at least he didn’t lie about this. This is one horrible thing he promised in the campaign – and a big reason I picked Hillary over him.

    • Not true. Princeton has a charter school that has a waiting list. Maybe there were some inner city schools founded on some flaky premise but academically challenging charter schools with prep school curriculum is what I’m advocating for.
      Here’s the thing, edge: If you let the educators make all of the curriculum decisions for you, you will end up with a curriculum that suits the lowest common denominator- of teachers.
      The American educational establishment has no genuine competition. Would you rather have a parent driven, internally sanctioned competition or the private sphere sucking up taxpayer dollars? I’m advocating for the former, not the latter.

      • Actually, Finance is now pretty much been overtaken by Indian Expats and it will shortly be overtaken by Chinese expats … it takes the same math as physics, same as economics, just so you know. The phd programs in both Finance and Econ are pretty much filled up by eastern Europeans, a few folks from the Arab states, Chinese and Indians. Americans usually don’t want the math work. They shy away from anything difficult.

        • oh, and a lot of both that I’ve seen, anyway, aren’t that impressive because they have learned mostly by rote, they can’t really do research and write tests based on extrapolating ideas from data. Some of the language skills are really bad even if they do graduate from top university phd programs. There’s more to the fields than just doing calculus problems from memory and a lot wind up failing their first year so performance on from memory standardized tests really don’t predict academic success in my field areas anyway from what I can see …

          • Hell performance on the SAT is only barely predictive of collegiate success, and the GRE isn’t that much better.

          • Agree about those tests. I seem to remember reading that grades is pretty much the only reasonable predictor of success. SAT’s, GRE’s, etc., and even IQ, are mostly predictors of class and whiteness.

  2. Generations before us came from other lands to better themselves or to escape tyrants. They expected their children to try and to achieve. Now the children and grand children of these people have become established. They think they have reached the American dream and no longer have to strive for better. The foolishly think that not making kids accountable and work to better themselves is a good thing.
    I have often asked the question ” Why do we think our kids are weaker then we were?” By not expecting and promoting the best in them we are cheating them. Every person needs to feel that they are worth something and one of the best ways to have that feeling is to strive and succeed. Every person has some ability and needs to know just what those abilities are and how to use them.



  3. We have a number of charter schools down here which operate on a first come first served basis. I have one grandson in a charter school which we hve found to be no better than the public school he attended. The other is in a private school due to the combination of an IQ of 140 and an auditory processing disorder. Sadly, gifted learning disabled students are totally SOL both in public and charter schools.

    • Heck, just plain gifted kids are SOL. In NJ, we provide no funding for these kids. Zero. All that is required is that the school identifies them. So, they know who they are but they don’t have to meet their needs at all. And they frequently don’t I have found that teachers reward hard work over native intelligence. I don’t know, maybe that’s how it should be. But if we don’t start treating the natively intelligent with the attention they deserve, there is little chance that we are going to get any hard work out of them.
      Charter schools are still in the experimentation stage. It seems to me like we should find the best curriculum in the world and imitate is shamelessly. That should be a good starting place for a charter school. And, hey, if you don’t want your kids learning at a world class level, fine, stay in the public school system. Just don’t keep my kid there against her will. Right now, she’s got no place else to go.

      • No argument here. Florida right now is 49th in spending on education, and predictably, 49th in education. Our best hope is for Guam to become a state so that we can be second from the bottom. One of my friends is a third grade teacher, This year they have furloughed her teacher’s aide and equipped her with an electronic blackboard and a wireless microphone. Go figure.

        • Oh, if only we had aides in class that would give the G&T kids some attention instead of telling them to just go out in the hallway to do their work so they won’t disturb the rest of the class.

          • In olden times, the gifted students tutored the slower students and in many cases taught class, to the benefit of both the tutor and the tutee.

          • I learned to sneak books into the class room to keep myself entertained and then I drew profusely. I taught my children those coping skills to deal with the inevitable boredom that comes with schools. I was personally bored by most of my classes all the way until graduate school. I always supplemented their school with outside things too. My eldest had a microscope by the time she was in first grade and we used to make sure we made new slides together from things all the time. We traveled–she like dinosaurs we’d go to dinosaur national monument. She liked nature–we’d go to Yellowstone and the Tetons. I never expected school to do anything other than provide the base upon which I could build. Both of my kids play piano well. Both of them dance,draw and paint. As you know, one’s a doctor now and the other one’s on her way to becoming a Financial Economist like me and her dad. I think a lot of the spark still has to come from the parents … and with that, we’re off the the French Quarter to experience together, the Preservation Hall jazz band and some good Louisiana gumbo!!!


          • oh, and you still will catch me drawing portraits of people or reading academic papers in meetings, anything like weddings, movies, or ceremonies … most of life is boring and unchallenging, you just gotta learn to cope with it … i was blogging here during a movie the other night as an example

      • of course they reward work over intelligence. They also reward right answers, good writing and english skills which all come easier to someone with high intelligence. But no one should be rewarded for what they were born with. Education used to reward one for being born rich, white and male too. Remember? Do you get paid at work for what you do or for your IQ level?

        So your kid doesn’t do her homework because she is bored, welcome to my childhood and my children’s childhood. Do you think that all those well educated Indian and Chinese are excited and stimulated and have great teachers all the time? No, their parents hold them responsible for their own behavior and not doing homework is not acceptable and no one makes excuses for them or feels sorry for them if they do not do well.
        IMO homework is crap in poor districts because kids go home to God only knows what circumstances where doing homework is the least of their problems. But your child is not in that situation, she’s just being lazy. I know, I was her. Do her a favor and yank her up short. Let her know and remind yourself how lucky she is to live in an area where there are so many outside enrichment programs to take advantage of.
        Charter schools are just public schools that do not have to follow the rules. They are a way of killing the teachers unions and very libertarian in concept. There are waiting lists because parents have ingested the right wing crap that teachers are not well prepared or educated. They think they know better than teachers and that with charter schools their kids will be taught on a more individualized basis. That is simply not true in most cases.
        As for NCLB, it is one of the things charter schools have the freedom to throw out the window.
        There were no gifted classes when I was a kid. Why was our generation so much better educated? Because teachers, who know immeasurably more about education than politicians, parents and school board members are not left alone to do what they know how to do.
        Do you really think that teachers want packets so that they are forced to teach whatever everyone else is teaching at the same time and in the same way. Good lord no they do not. Most are right brained and perceptive. What they want is to be able to respond to the children they have in front of them in real time. Bad teachers weed themselves out and bored teachers have taught for ever, put up with all the pampered princes and princesses and all the parents who think their child should be specifically catered to and are burnt out. That is nothing new, we have all survived a few teachers we didn’t like and that in itself is a real world experience we survived and learned from.

        And schools have to cater to the average. Most people are average. They no longer have the budgets to have four different tracks for students. They can’t afford the teachers they need because they are too busy with red tape and endless paper work and law suits and all kinds of crap they didn’t have to deal with 50 years ago. They no longer have money for music class or gym or debate class or lots of things that kept most of us in school and charter schools are not helping.
        But Asian students and Indian students go to the same schools or they go to private schools and their parents sacrifice to get them there. They deal with the same crap, they just have a different attitude about it.

        • What is the point of achievement? All the achievers will accomplish is to make themselves more useful slaves to our lords and masters, the rich.

          The only advice I have to give young people is: Don’t reproduce. Why create more victims for this Hell known as “life”?

          Perhaps the only questions that truly matter, in the long run, are:

          (1) Is there a life after this one?

          (2) If yes, is there a range of differing conditions in that afterlife?

          (3) If yes, what does one need to do to obtain the better conditions? This last may entail the asking of further questions–for example, asking questions about the Universe, in order to learn how to manipulate it to help one’s fellow humans. and hence obtain better conditions in this life and the next one.

          If there be an afterlife, only those questions really matter.

          And if there be NO afterlife, then Queen got it right:

          “Nothing really matters/Anyone can see/Nothing really matters/Nothing really matters to me”

          Any way the wind blows…

          • Ouch, that is a very good point. What’s the point indeed. Perhaps the main thing to tell kids is all of this crap is made up, and if these rules don’t mesh well with the way you think, don’t be limited by them. Fly. Be free. It’s all BS in the end. Go out and do anything and try to be happy. What else is there. Become a pirate. 🙂

        • I love this comment. Also, I have problems with streaming kids based on being gifted, average, and below average, because it’s already too easy for kids to decide or be told that they’re stupid and then labor under that delusion for too long. It happened to me, and it wasn’t until I was back in college in my mid-twenties getting a 4.0 that I realized that I WASN’T stupid, that I DIDN’T inherently suck at math. Tell someone that they’re dumb, and chances are good that they’ll believe it if they trust you.

  4. It’s been a long time since our schools main focus was turning out kids who could compete in the real world. They do a good job of turning out kids who think every one is just as smart and accomplished as everyone else, and that questioning whether that is true is fundamentally wrong and weird.

    Everyone is not equally intelligent. Everyone is NOT equally capable. And there is nothing wrong with that. We are raising an entire generation of kids who think it’s shameful to be below or above average – and therefore they try with all their might to be….. average. Competitiveness itself is frowned upon. I’ve known some very, very smart kids who actually were counseled by teachers to not be so obviously zealous and excited about learning and achieving, because it “looks like you’re showing off”, and “causes resentment”. And we just can’t have that.

    Unless there is drastic change, my granddaughter will NEVER attend a public school. Ever. We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure of it. I’ve been a lifetime supporter of public education, but like many parents/grandparents I’m fed UP after shepherding 4 kids through that godawful system that is only getting worse. No, I will not sacrifice my grandchild’s future just to make a point that public education is a good thing. It is, in concept, but they need to get their fucking act together.

    • Back in the 60’s when I was in school, we had placement testin g. The justice department put a stop to it as prejudicial. My granddaughter is in some AP classes, but there were almost none available for my daughter.

      • Get this: in my school district in the 90’s, the administration put a limit on how many AP courses a student could take per term. They felt it was important that the student be “well rounded”. They really do not understand how some enriched students’ minds work. Really do not understand. In fact, just the act of forbidding them from taking more AP courses is a blow to the self esteem. It means that the educators responsible for your education find you inadequate. You’re not athletic or popular enough for their tastes.

        • yes, the administration…. not the educators, not the teachers. Cut the school board and fire half of administration. It was their decision not the teachers.

      • Both my children and I and as well my exhusband lived in AP classes in three different Omaha surburban school districts. My high school was rated sixth in the nation when I went there. I had my first two years of university done before I left high school as a result. The public school systems in the most of the heartland don’t have these problems but then the populations there are much more homogeneous which might be a portion of it. If you talk to folks in places like Iowa, Nebraska, North or South Dakota, Minnesota, etc. you’re going to get completely different stories.

    • I’ve seen a lot of kids down here from private schools, especially Catholic ones, that pay a lot of money to keep their kids away from the behavioral problems in the public ones and wind up with really mediocre educations. It’s buyer beware on charter schools and private schools too from what I can see from what I keep getting in my class rooms .

      • Oh, it definitely depends on the school, even private ones. Some are just “where you park the rich kids” or “where you park the religious kids to keep them away from the big bad world”.

        But our youngest just graduated high school here, and those last few years were a struggle to keep a very smart young woman motivated. Public schools have gone WAY downhill, and we’ve watched it from our 27 year old eldest to our 18 year old youngest.

        The two year old grandbaby will not be in public schools unless things change a LOT. We’ll seek a challenging school for her without the bureaucratic “one lazy size fits all” nightmares, thanks.

        I do agree that parents have to supplement, though – good for you for doing the museums and music and science with your kids.

        We did all that, and assigned our kids summer reading even when the school didn’t. And as they got older, their dad set them math problems at the dinner table, as well as conundrums of philosophy to argue over. Hubby, in addition to his medical degree, has degrees in humanities and physics, so we had all sorts of wild arguments over everything from string theory to Aristotle. The kids grew up being EXPECTED to argue a point, and argue it well, because he and I would not hold back in shooting them down if they weren’t making sense. “Don’t regurgitate, THINK!”

        I think the proudest day of our youngest daughter’s life was the day, at around 16, she decisively WON an argument over the politics of Ancient Rome with her father. Beating dad fair and square in debate was a huge deal to her. Whatever field a young woman or man goes into, if they have been taught critical thinking and logic, and deductive reasoning, it’s to their advantage. Most of the deductive reasoning skills our kids have, they learned at home – not at school.

        • there is nothing wrong with sending your kids to private school, I think it is a great solution for people who are careful to make sure their kids are actually learning more. I know many who will convince you are part of some brilliant club, when they are only mediocre.
          But remember private schools only take the top students and those without behavioral problems. Public schools have to teach everyone and they have to cater to parents and politicians and the legal system in a way that private schools do not.

        • There’s nothing wrong with parents supplementing a child’s education, but remember that many parents, especially those in minority or poor populations, don’t have the time, money, education, or resources to really do this. We can’t Depend on it in public policy.

  5. I get what you’re saying, but it’s like the healthcare debate. I want a high quality of education available, and I want it available to everyone. That said, there’s nothing wrong with a meritocracy. Gifted students need to be challenged as much or more than average students. I get that, I went to an International Baccalaureate school.

    I don’t know that mainstreaming is a good idea for gifted kids (or disabled kids, but it’s a very different question). But I’m not sure that streaming based on standardized tests is a good idea either. Especially when the standardized tests used aren’t actually studied. For instance, in WA we have the WASL. But it was put in place in a hurry without being really assessed to make sure that it was constructed properly in terms of content or format. So is it really a valid instrument to use to make policy or individual educational decisions?

    I agree that what we do now is worry too much about self-esteem and not enough about actual learning. We hobble the gifted. But I’d like to see a solution that doesn’t involve a two-tier education system.

    • We need standardized tests. Period. The best of the world uses them and it’s time we stopped lying to ourselves about it. We are no different, no better. We aren’t special.
      If WA doesn’t have standards, I’m really surprised, what with the Gates foundation and all. Maybe the standards aren’t ones that the educational establishment likes. You can always steal the standards from another state. Massachusetts and Virginia have pretty good ones.

      • have you ever taught to a standardized test? They are crap. And they are NOT used world wide. What is used world wide is a respect for education and teachers and an atmosphere where people who have new ideas are allowed to test them.
        I am surprised that any liberal would think a one size fits all test and set of standards was the key to education.

      • I’m not saying we need standardized tests. People are in school to learn concepts, and you need to assess their learning. Period. I’m saying that any standardized tests used to evaluate kids or schools must be valid and reliable, and many of them aren’t.

      • Don’t. I’m not saying we DON’T need standardized tests. Bad typing.

      • By the way, when I was a kid I was told the standardized tests wouldn’t effect my grade. So I did what I assumed any reasonable person would do, I just filled in all the holes of the answer sheet making a pretty, somewhat random pattern. I wonder of others did that or if kids still do.

  6. I’m sorry to disagree with your post, Riverdaughter, but as someone who dabbled in teaching while working my way up into my current profession, I’d like to make a few points.

    I hear your frustration about our lack of support for gifted children in this country. I was four grades ahead all during school and attended college classes starting as a freshman in high school. I grew up in a college town, so many of my classmates were children of professors. There were so many students who qualified as gifted, they ditched the gifted program.

    Standardized testing is a travesty for many reasons. One of the most glaring faults is that it requires students to be educated to the LOWEST level. By teaching students “standards” all day, which is what we were forced to do, in order to pass a test, you do not teach any concepts more complex than can be used on a simple multiple choice test. Think about that. I taught English to high school students, and my district was mandating that we stopped our assignment of one novel per year. Just one, and we’re not supposed to spend any time away from the standards. Why? Because the tests only had short essay and answer, no reason for a child to be able to learn and interpret long, complex writing.

    How appalling is it that we are educating our students to a level that will only allow them to process a newspaper or maybe a magazine article? The ramifications of this cannot be overstated. Standards and standardized testing, as WMCB pointed out, works on the principle that every person is of the same intelligence. We are creating a generation of slaves and consumers because we are cutting off the original purpose of education–independent thought, logic and reasoning, and exposure to a wide range of ideas. Remember when being educated was also called “well read?” Look at the Obots: group think, totally accepting of soundbyte information, unable or unwilling to think beyond simple concepts and slogans. It’s the triumph of NCLB.

    The idea that teachers are the biggest problem with education is terribly misguided. Yes, there are very few teachers who are qualified to teach higher math, science, or humanities for that matter. The pay scale for teachers cannot attract people of that caliber and education (one, because you can’t pay off your student loans). Teachers are not respected at all in our culture. Look at Europe, the Middle East, and most especially, Asia. Who would aspire to a profession where one is constantly riducled by students, screamed at by parents, and paid as well as the 25 year-old manager at In-N-Out? We’ve started to treat teaching as a “calling”, much like priests and nuns, because the sacrifice is so large and the rewards most likely to come in the next life.

    But what I found was that at every turn, the very best teacher’s efforts are confounded. Teachers are simply baby sitters at best and jailers at worst. Try teaching all different levels, from advanced to special needs in a classroom of up to 50 students. Yes, that’s right, 50. Add into that all different ethnicities, many or whom are struggling just to learn English, and others, such as second generation immigrants, who are orally proficient in two languages and literate in neither. Then add student and parent apathy. How about social promotion that does not allow students to fail, sending students into my classroom who, while I was trying to discuss literature, could not spell, construct a sentence, or write in cursive?

    It sounds like your school district is perhaps more homgenous and higher economically than the district in which I taught, but the problems remain the same. When we use standardized test scores as the measure of learning, we’ve lost the game already. As you said, your daughter is far above her peers. Her ability to pass that test is meaningless. But our ideas of demcracy and fairness do not allow us to track students by ability, for fear that slow developers will be stuck in lower tracks and that this practice will be discriminatory. In other countries, such as Japan, there is a sense that those studens who achieve will move forward, and those that don’t will move on to job skills training. And while I firmly agree with that idea, as it would help service the gifted as well as the underachievers who are constantly failing and believing they have nothing to contribute to society, that would take a fundamental shift in the American view of education.

    There are so many problems with education in our country, it will take a whole lot of effort, money, and time to fix it. The biggest impact that studies have proven, within our current system, is to reduce class size. A teacher can service students of differing needs in class levels restricted to 15-20 depending on age. But until that is done, no teacher can deal with the other issues. Unfortunately, when parents ask what to do with their gifted children, I tell them to send them to private school and/or provide them with extra tutoring or parent-led education (this is not homeschool). What a sad answer, and yet another reason the gap between those that can afford it is widening. But that is the case and has always been, the wealthy were educated and the lower classes were not. In a country of our size and diversity, the dream of public education that provides excellent schooling for all has perhaps proven to be a pipe dream.

    And on a side note, having graduated from an Ivy League University, it’s obvious that the problems continue. Send them abroad…

    • Sorry, it’s just not the case that teachers are wildly underpaid. At least not here in NJ. But that is no excuse for not being able to do math and science as well as a teacher in Japan, China, or Germany. The standards need to change for teachers.
      As for gifted kids, they don’t get the programs they need but there are far more children here who can learn at least a grade level higher in math who aren’t. They’re not necessarily gifted but they do need a curriculum matched to their abilities.
      The lowest common denominator we are talking about is the standard certification for teachers.
      Again, without competition, there will be no incentive for this situation to improve. I’d prefer the competition come from publicly funded charter schools, not private entities.

      • no school district can get enough math or science teachers now with minimal requirements from what I can see … and it’s even more difficult to get them at the University level. Those specialties don’t pay well, and no one goes into them. The US kids that are good at that basically go to med school for the money or head to wall street for the money. It’s mostly about the money for many of those. Science PHDs are paid badly and are a dime a dozen even from top schools. Math PHDs even worse. And when you find them, they may be good at their subject area and then they can’t teach … no kid want’s to major in any of those areas unless they are headed to computers, med school or Wall Street.

        • And you don’t see that as a problem, Kat? We don’t live in a culture where such skills are prized? The truth is there are students who are steered away from these professions everyday either because they don’t make the zillion dollar bonuses or when they get to college, they are woefully undeprepared. We shouldn’t just shrug our shoulders and say tough noogies. Those kids are our energy independence, our next cure fir cancer. If we don’t educate them properly, they end up as salesmen and bookkeepers. Not thar there’s anything wrong with that but a mind is a terrible thing to waste.
          And since we have global role models for how it can be done, there’s no excuse not to do it. It’s like health care.
          Your country’s only as smart as you expect it to be. No people can remain both free and ignorant.

          • yup, that’s a problem, but it’s not because of the schools, it’s because of the parents. The deal is with both India and the Asian cultures is the parents’ high level of involvement as partners in their children’s education. We somewhat used to see that in the 1950s and 1960s. We don’t see that any more except among students with those backgrounds or the ones that have geeks for parents like more children do … if my kid didn’t like a class I went to the teacher and demanded to be given supplementary material for me to cover with my kid at home.

            It’s the parents, imho because they consider success to be related to salary … they’ll push their kids to be star pitchers or pop singers but academics? Hell no!

          • As embodied in the bumper sticker. My child just beat your honor student up.

      • Sorry, but do you know any other profession where one can have a masters degree or more and retire after 35 years of being the best of the best and still only be making 75k a year?
        Teachers certification is extremely hard to get and bad teachers do not stay even if they are lucky enough to be hired.
        You should try it for a year and then come back and have this discussion again.

        Stop blaming your daughters problem on her teachers. Let her be responsible for herself and her own failure. Or look to what else might be going on in her life that has her distracted.
        Are you falling in to the “I am divorced and guilty and my child is a victim trap” that I fell in to? I have no idea if you are divorced or not, but it is a terribly sad thing in a kid’s life. We know it and we do a lot of enabling because of it. That is just one suggestion.
        Look I am only talking like this because I know exactly where you are at the moment, Your kid might have every rotten teacher in the world and go to only terrible schools and the education system may really suffer from stupid teachers etc etc… and if that is the case your daughter is STILL responsible for not learning and not working at it. If she is that bored and unstimulated, well then there is a big world of libraries, enrichment programs and just plain hard work at ANYTHING for her to partake in. Education can not be all things to all people. It takes some personal responsibility to make the most of it when you do not fall in to the medium sized box.

      • NCLB requires the teacher to have their major in the subject area they are teaching. At the middle school level teachers have to either major in math and science to teach it or pass the test. Even if a teacher has been teaching math for 20 years, if they have only a minor, they have to pass a test. Unfortunately, not everyone is a great teacher! We have all been in classrooms that bore us to tears. Teaching well is an art that many fail to realize. It’s not about getting students to regurgitate information for a test. It’s about helping a student to reach their full potential by instilling a sense of self and a desire to learn. Another thing about NCLB is that it is truly about the numbers. It is more important for a district to get more students passing than it is for your child to get the highest score. I say this because funding is kind of tied to the percentage of students that are proficient. Many schools concentrate on getting those students that are close to passing to pass to improve their overall numbers. This may be to the detriment of the gifted child. However, as a public school teacher I don’t believe the answer is Charter schools. I don’t want to see necessary resources being allocated for Charter schools that can throw out the NCLB game that public schools have to play. The answer is in reforming schools in a smarter way. Where I am there is way too much emphasis on testing. If I had a child in school now I would not want my child facing test after test. Sometimes it just reinforces the negative feeling the child already feels when they don’t quite measure up. I don’t believe the tests are true tests of value anyway. They are created by corporations that make money through this constant testing. Our school also has signed up to an Internet program so we test two times for that as well as the other required tests. Teachers feel the pressure to teach for the test as they know they have to get their students to “perform” or face the consequences. This is not a simple issue. With the breakdown of the economy we also are witnessing the breakdown of our families. What many children really need is some structure and guidance at home. I see parents struggling with all they have to face today and often the child’s education is not the first priority. Some students feel there isn’t much point as they watch their older brothers and sisters come back from college without finding jobs. If we want a true “Renaissance” in education we must fix the economy so people aren’t just trying to survive but are also trying to nurture their souls!

  7. I spent the 2007-2008 school year as an AmeriCorps reading tutor in a tiny pacific town in Washington State, less than 100 students K-6. Obviously I’m not an authority when it comes to education but it quite a revealing experience as an outsider looking in. The teachers were the best. They cared, they tried, they pushed their students to excel. The upper levels of administration were a pain in the butt. If I ever hear “Research Based Teaching Theories” again my head will explode. The teachers were always being asked to use “New” and “Better” teaching methods. The teachers were never allowed to become proficient on any teaching method before it was changed. Also, their decisions about students being held back or needing additional instruction were over ridden by the school administration oustide of the school. Many times I saw the Principle back up one of her teacher’s child assesments only to get shot down by the administration. I can see why teachers get very frustrated by the system themselves.
    I discussed these situations with one of my fellow High School students who is now a Catholic School Principle. When I described what was going on, she concurred that the same thing was happening to her.
    I agree that there are some lazy, lousy teachers out there but from my one small experience it’s the administration outside of the school house itself that holds teachers and students back from their potential.

    • That’s my experience too and actually a lot of it’s from parents who keep screaming about the ‘basics’ without really understanding what that means. Then there’s always the education fad de jour that’s pushed on you by administrators and education professors and they do it like a cookie cutter to every one no matter if it fits your subject area or not.

    • A quote from Ben Bova in an Analog Science Fiction editorial from decades ago: “The best school ever built was a grove of olive trees with Socrates in it.” After 33 years of teaching, I still remember it and know it as truth.

    • Yep, teaching trends were a big problem when I was on the board. Neither curriculum supervisors nor teachers could evaluate them properly. But as Ross Perot said, if your competition is doing a better job, copy them.
      The question is, do teachers want to challenge themselves?

    • Wow around here it’s the attempts to insert christian doctrine into the class room.

  8. I also forgot to add the appalling lack of parental priorities for education. It’s a common assumption that Asian students achieve in school. Some people claim yell that that’s raycist! But because Asian parents VALUE education, they make sure their students are prepared for class, pay attention, do their homework, including advanced problems above and beyond the assignment, and LEARN. Being educated is worth something in Europe and Asia. In America, not so much. You don’t have to be smart or well read, you just need to be wealthy.

    I understand that parents are so strapped for time and money and that raising children is very hectic. Yet I see so many parents willing to cart their kids off to sports and extracurricular activities, but totally unwilling to sit down with their children and tutor them. A teacher who suggests such a thing is literally shouted out of the room. Parents dump their kid off at school and feel they have no responsibility to their education and development. When we compare ourselves to other countries’ educational systems, we should also be studying the home practices. Johnny doesn’t get to go out and play until Johnny fully understands the concepts from class.

    I have only experienced one instance in which a parent, yes a Vietnamese parent, came in and asked for advanced homework. I was more than happy to work with the family to create a customized plan for their gifted student. I doubt any teacher, when a parent offers assistance–as the teacher is usually working unpaid until late at night just trying to keep up with grading papers from their 250 students–would object to such an arrangement.

    And I know that this is not the case with you Riverdaughter, it’s obvious how much you care about your daughter’s education and I absolutely commend you. Your posts bring up these subjects which are very necessary to talk about.

    • Where have you been in the past decade? In NJ, parents are expected to be absolute slaves to their kids education. We have a shitload of project crap to but, assemble, nag about. But if a kid wants to go faster in the book or read the novel in a night, they get punished for this. There’s no end to the stupid dioramas though. My 13 year old was still expected to do them in 7th grade. They were fin when she was 9. At 13? Not so much.
      As for private schools, the spaces are very limited, the cost astronomical and financial aid practically nonexistant. Yea, I’ve had to send her to summer programs, enroll her in distance learning with EPGY and teach her myself. Butcha know, I pay a ridiculous amount of money in property taxes and I think my kid deserves a school that actually wants to, you know, *teach* her something instead of regard her as a redheaded stepchild. Wouldn’t you prefer that someone find out why your kid doesn’t want to do her homework instead of brutally penalizing her for it even when her test grades are A’s? I know why she’s not doing it. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if she had to do the work to pass the test, she’d do the work. But we don’t allow kids to skip grades, we don’t let them learn with their ability based peers and then we can’t figure out why their study habits are so poor and their attitude sucks.
      Educational ideology has a lot to do with this and it’s very hard to change. You know, my internationally trained colleagues from china, Germany, Ukraine, France are apalled at the poor quality teaching in math and sciences. They vigorously go out of their way to prevent their kids from slipping behind their own standards. They don’t make any excuses for poorly trained teachers.
      Only Americans do that.

      • I agree that in the face of large property taxes, we the people have a right to a government, (inclusive of education) that actually works. A few months ago, I served on a citizen’s focus group that I’m pretty certain that I will never be invited to again. The topic? Would we be willing to pay more taxes for better services. I pointed out that if I were to tell my boss that I’d work harder if she pais me more would not go over terribly well.

    • I have to agree with everything Outis said. As someone who grew up in the British system of education. The kids who do well are those with parents who make education a priority.

      It was unheard of when I went to school, for parents to second guess or approach a teacher to tell her/him how to teach.

      What’s more, our standardized testing was comprehensive and tested application and complexity of thought. I mean that multiple choice questions were part of the testing, the higher portions of the grade went to the essay questions where application and understanding were key.

      Education was the highest priority in my house. The parents accepted no excuses for a C.

      Teachers here are not paid well, are not respected and not allowed to truely shape the minds of their students.

      Here in the US high school or college dropouts are lauded and make millions / billions, what is the value in education? A PHD is just spending a whole lot of time in school, for no resultant monetary reward.

      Here – the value of education has been lost. In China, in India – it is the KEY to a better life.

      • Also, we did not have yearly standardized testing. We had it at the end of primary school, secondary school and A-Levels (a former British colony).

  9. “The administration’s stance has caught by surprise educators and officials who had hoped that Mr. Obama’s calls during the campaign….”

    Well there’s the whole problem right there! These are our public educators and they fell for “hope” and campaign promises? Not the sharpest tools in the shed are they??

    I’m kidding.

  10. Riverdaughter, you’re right about your facts. We’re wasting gifted students. The fear of teaching facts in schools is stupid. But I have to second Outis regarding the cure. Teachers don’t get paid enough and they don’t have enough time to do the kind of job you want.

    That doesn’t change just because a few senior teachers get a decent wage, nor because some districts or states (Minnesota) pay more. Talented science teachers don’t say to themselves, “It’s a great career move to spend ten years working for less than $40,000, another ten years for less than $50,000, after training long enough to have gotten a Masters, and to have a job babysitting 40 kids, working 15/7 just to stay on top of grading and prep.”

    Spend more time talking to teachers about their working conditions, if you want to get at the root of why they have no time for your child, or any other.

    The single biggest determinant of good teaching is class size. The most brilliant teacher can do next to nothing but babysit when classes are much over the high 20s.

    Small classes cost money. They require more teachers and more schools. We don’t want to spend money. We just want excellent education. That’s like saying we’d like to fly without all the expense and bother of building aircraft.

    Or have good pharmaceutical research without commitment from management to see projects through and without job security.

    My background in all this is that I’ve been a university biology prof for decades. That’s easier than teaching school, but some aspects of teaching apply in both cases. I also, during a particularly bad patch in the academic job market, looked into qualifying to teach high school science. Believe me, it’s a complete non-starter. Community colleges are way better places to work, and you don’t have those supremely boring child development courses to plow through to qualify.

    Good science teachers are not going to be common in high schools until the classes are small enough so they can teach, until they’re respected enough to be given the time and the means to do a good job, and until the pay and hours worked are commensurate with their other opportunities.

    In other words, good teachers cost money. Standardized tests won’t change that.

    • I agree with you Quix, but I think the issue of the class size is related to all the other issues that teachers here have to deal with. Throughout my primary and secondary schooling my class size was seldom below 40. However, my teachers did not have to deal with parents, behavior issues, adminstrative or school board issues, or yearly standardized testing.

      I also taught HS in my home country for 1 year. (I taught integrated science and math and had a homeroom class.) This is in a developing country. My classes never had fewer than 36 kids, but I had no discipline issues, no parent issues and no school board or curriculum person beathing down my neck. My students did very well, not just in my classes but in their entire program. I was also paid well, relative to the rest of the country’s workforce (top tier). It is a matter of priorities for the country, parents and students.

    • Actually no.
      Technology can over come the problem of a large class.
      Case in point, give the teacher a head set like Madonna wears in her concerts and embed lots of small loud speakers in the ceiling of the classroom so all the students, not just the ones in the front, can hear the lesson.
      Ask my sister. When her teachers were given the system they didn’t want to give it up after the evaluation it made that much of a difference.
      When students can hear and see the subject matter being taught they tend to pay attention.

    • “America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week.” 😕
      – Evan Esar (1899 – 1995)

  11. What we need are better schools with better teachers. Ni doubt about that. Some of the HS teachers that my granddaughter has are PhD level (in hger AP classes). I’ve checked with my daughter and sure enoughm RD, you are correct. She is not permitted to take more than 2 AP classes per semester.

    • In the school district where I work, a student can take all AP classes every year, if they can fit it into their schedule.

      We want more vocational classes, to improve the drop out rate and help students who aren’t that interested in algebra, etc. to learn a trade.

  12. I only know what my sister went through as a school principal at a poor Florida district. When she took over the buildings would have landed a land lord in jail. Leaky roofs bad plumbing and electrics, the whole nine yards. After years of going out in search of grants (Microsoft came through royally) going to Tallahassee begging, she got a new state of the art facility. It’s bleeding edge now but during the fight for it, one state representative made the comment, “These kids didn’t know they had crowded classrooms until they saw it on TV”
    Here in PA we still have school board members still fuming because they can’t get Creationism on the curricula. Google Intelligent Design and Dover School District.
    Locally funded schools might be the ticket for learning classical language in the agrarian society of the Founding Fathers but it is entirely unsuited to today.
    That’s the first problem with education.
    The second problem is there is not much out there for a student with a good education anymore. Where are engineering students supposed to go when manufacturing has been dumped in favor of selling shoddy financial products. What about chemical and biological research? It seems all they are interested in anymore is developing a new stiffy pill that doesn’t infringe on the patent of an established wood pill.
    Schools should be able to afford to educate all students from the challenged to the gifted in a safe nurturing environment, but we are too cheap to pay for it.

  13. I’m not saying this to be mean or start something but…RD you seem to be eminently qualified to teach science. Ask yourself why you don’t teach in your daughters school. Do you expect more from others than you are willing to do? There has to be a reason that qualified persons like yourself don’t teach. I don’t pretend to know your situation but I would be willing to bet that you make far more money where you are than if you were a teacher. The problem with education in the US is that it not a priority but an after thought. What is one of the first cuts made when a state has financial problems,education. What is one of the last places that increases are made when the economy is doing well, again education.

    • Interesting point. Something we should all ask of ourselves. I got out of there as soon as possible. I knew I could make triple within one year without all the hassles. I miss helping the students who really wanted to learn, but was so glad to be rid of all the problem children. I think teachers should get battle pay. My first month of substituting, I had a seventh grader throw a pair of scissors at my head with intent to harm me, and one student, a girl, who had to be escorted out by the police after she cussed out me, two proctors, the asst. principal and the principal. I admire those people who feel as though they were born to teach. It sure wasn’t me.

      • I put myself right in there too. I wish I could afford to teach. I can’t do it. My plan is to retire and then maybe teach. I will not have to do it for the money so it will be solely because I want to.

      • years ago a student who threw a pair of scissors would have been yanked up by the arm and slammed against the wall and then their parents would have been called and they would have beat the kid with a switch. I am not in favor of corporal punishment and for sure too many administrators abused it. But kid who threw the scissors, what happened to him or her? Not what the kid deserved I am sure.

        • For the child who threw the scissors, the punishment was a stern talking to, then the administrator tried to send him back to class. When I refused, I eventually got a proctor to watch him outside. I had kids so hyped up on sugar and meds, they were literally climbing the walls. I had gunshot holes in my classroom windows and children who were having sex in the bathroom stalls. This was high school mind you. It’s out of control. The bad kids take so much away from the good ones. What to do? Special Education needs take up much of the $$ from special services, so smart children are the ones left behind.

          But that’s what I’m trying to say, public schooling should not be the ONLY place children receive education. Just look at the best minds this country has produced, and you will see that their education was not full time for they often had to participate in farming or buillding. But look at Thomas Jefferson. His voracious mind caused him to create a vast library and ran him far and wide in order to pursue his interests. Education should groom students for a lifetime of learning and thought. Standardized testing and teaching for the test cannot accomplish that.

  14. New Post Up. Open thread — what’s on your bucket list?

  15. RD, I have not read through all the comments so perhaps you’ve already addressed this, but: wouldn’t the charter school teachers have gone through the same training/education as the public school teachers? Therefore, wouldn’t the charter school teachers be as ill-equipped (using your argument) to teach advanced math/science as the public school teachers? You contradicted yourself toward the end of your post by blaming the teachers/teacher prep and then blaming the entire public school system. Which is it?

  16. There’s nothing like passing cal w/ a perfect SOL score and taking math all the way up to AP stats but unable to place into college-level regular calculus.

  17. I teach history at the college level and consistently my worst students are education majors. They often place into the lowest English and math courses (developmental and very basic skills) as incoming freshmen, and their performance in my class is terrible, on the whole. They don’t read the book, write well, or have much interest in learning American history. They tell me that my class should be like their education classes, which they always do well in. In those classes, they sit in a circle, talk about how rotten school boards are, discuss diversity until they are blue in the face, and congratulate themselves for thinking that the purpose for education is to make sure no one is better than everyone else. You want to change the American education system? Change how teachers are taught to be teachers–change the mindset of the people who educate them in college. Then you can tackle parental apathy and the host of other problems.

    • excuse me for being rude…but what a crock of shit, an elitist crock of shit to boot. If this is really the case then it is the fault of your college, because that is not the norm.

      • The college grads who decided on teaching during my day chose it under the theme, “if it looks like you might fail out of college, switch to a teaching degree ’cause it’s the easiest route to graduation.”

        TeresaINPa, you are not the only person who has seen trends or has a belief that is founded in experience.

        I believe you when you say some schools are excellent teaching colleges, and I believe Elle when she says hers and others she’s familiar with are not.

    • You want to change the American education system?

      We must have gotten one of your graduates in the IB program who refused to use e-mail because not everyone was as privileged as those with e-mail. Odd thing is that the program raved about its web based communication system and how readily you could communicate with the teachers. 😆 We complained and a year and a half later the teacher joined the communication revolution, kicking and screaming.

    • A friend of mine teaches college English and told me exactly the same thing recently.

  18. You can insult me all you want, but it’s not just at one college. And it seems that your refrain here has been that it’s everyone else’s fault. Education classes are stuck in a mode that simply doesn’t work anymore. The reality is that ed majors aren’t being taught how to think, just what to think, so they move into teaching positions with the idea that how they were taught in education classes is how to do it. It’s a vicious cycle. Maybe you see better in your part of PA, but that’s not what I see in my part, unfortunately.

    • Just simply not true. Education majors are as smart as anyone else they just have a different skill set. If they are bored with history they are not unlike many other students who don’t like history and do not do well. simply being good in a subject is not a measure or how well you can teach it. There is much more to it than people a math wiz or a science wiz. I have had those teachers, some were good some were dreadful.
      You have insulted lots of very bright people by the description of what you think education classes are. It is a snobby and ridiculous analysis about something you do not know about. Have you been to any of those classes? Or are you passing on cafeteria gossip?
      Every major has students who are unprepared for college. Those students if they can not cut it, get weeded out. Some who can get it but can’t teach also get weeded out.
      Do I think it is everyone else’s fault? I think it is the fault of society, not enough money to hire more teachers, too much interference from the government, administration and parents and too much paper work.
      Try teaching elementary or middle school, seriously and I promise you you will change your opinion.

      • Sometimes the boredom of students in the college history classes is due to the lack of teaching skills by that unskilled professor.

  19. When you say standardized tests are you talking about state required tests? No child left behind has been notorious for an increase in state tests. Hillary said it best during the primaries, “our teachers shouldn’t be test givers and our children shouldn’t be little test takers” I am paraphrasing of course, but she was speaking of the disastrous no child left behind and it completely resonates with the problem with public schools – these constant outdated state tests that in no way test an educational level of a student yet they are a big part of the curriculum and student’s overall grade averages.

  20. Some of the stats in this video are a little out of date, but you’ll get the idea. As a former engineer turned science teacher, I would offer that one of the biggest failures of our teacher education is the lack of technology that is used in teaching. Most classrooms have a computer or two and maybe there’s a computer lab in the building, but teachers are not being taught how to use technology to teach. They are also not teaching their students how to use technology productively. For example, social networking sites could be wonderful classroom tools when used for international collaboration with other students, but instead our students use them to post inappropriate photos of themselves. A class with robust use of technology also supports the creation differentiated learning opportunities without driving a teacher to drink. Instead, we are asking our teachers to teach our children how to fill in bubbles on standardized tests. And they are spending a lot of time on it because for many of them their jobs depend on their students’ success on these meaningless tests. When was the last time your boss asked you to fill out a multiple choice test? Not only are you asking talented scientists and mathematicians to work for far less than we can make in industry, you are also asking us to teach science and math in a mid-20th century environment. Except for the two computers in the back of my classroom, it looked just the room where I was taught science in 1958. No wonder the kids have decided that their education is irrelevant.

  21. I’ve got a lot of problems with this post, as a science degree graduate, the reason we don’t see a lot of native born or 3-4 generation folks in science is job ads like this:

    [“Junior engineer” must have 4-7 years in depth experience in [these fields]….Mandarin a plus….salary DOE [turns out 37,000 -45,000] again this is a junior position, please no resumes from those with more experience.]

    Why would any American want to be at the top 1% of their class to have a career that last 7 years and ends when they can no longer be called Junior? I’ve warned all my relatives to stay away from the engineering fields unless they have entree to another country that values their skills.

  22. I always like to ask my friends and neighbors who spend lots of their time complaining about their children’s teachers, why THEY didn’t go into teaching, and how would THEY make their own classroom better?

    Inevitably, they answer “Not enough money,” and “I’m not sure.” And then they change the subject.

    Respectfully submitted, RD, sitting on a school board is not the same as the classroom experience. And very very few school board members ever spend a full day in a real classroom, let alone understand developmental readiness or curriculum. School board members deal with budgets for gravel (roads) and lunchroom supplies and lightbulbs and air conditioning systems. Many of them are local businessmen looking to gain contracts for their own friends.

    But they sure do feel they have the right to dictate to experienced teachers how the classroom should be managed, theoretically. And basically, it’s the school board that chooses and dictates curriculum , forcing teachers to use whatever is the newest in the market, without proof that it works.

    I think your problem is your own state.

    My state has lots of programs/activities for their GT children. In fact, the GT/Honors programs begin at 3rd grade, with special teachers trained and qualified to handle these children and their needs. We were all quite pleased with the challenges offered to our children.

    I’m sorry New Jersey sucks, and that you made a sweeping statement for all public schools based on only your own state’s suckiness. Had I been a parent in such a situation, a private school might have met my son’s needs better.

    But I was very lucky. GT at 3rd grade, continued special activities like Odyssey of the Mind , and lots of AP classes for them later.

    It’s just not fair for you to judge them all by NJ’s crappy standards, without knowing what many others states provide.

    “Not enough money,” said most of my friends who were bankers or real estate agents or CPA’s or legal assistants or nurses or doctors.

    Well, no shit.

    But I am, and always will be, deeply grateful for the GT teachers my son, who loved their job, and poured their full creative abilities into doing it well, for “not enough money.”

  23. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/aug/23/gcse-science-tsar-standards-stem

    It is not just in America



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