Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Biggest Issue

An interesting take on the USA and education,
Great Progress up to 1970 and little progress since then.

From the NY Times click HERE

Niki writes:

This whole article is a must read for leaders and parents in this country. Thanks, Dan, for sending it.

Of special importance, I thought, are the following paragraphs.

Heckman points out that big gaps in educational attainment are present at age 5. Some children are bathed in an atmosphere that promotes human capital development and, increasingly, more are not. By 5, it is possible to predict, with depressing accuracy, who will complete high school and college and who won’t.

I.Q. matters, but Heckman points to equally important traits that start and then build from those early years: motivation levels, emotional stability, self-control and sociability. He uses common sense to intuit what these traits are, but on this subject economists have a lot to learn from developmental psychologists.

Seems to me money needs to be dumped into parenting classes during middle school and high school years, since there is the belief by many that school is the place where everything related to behaviors should be taught to students. (We should also have adult parenting classes mandated by the government, don't you think?)

No kidding, I really don't know the answer for turning around a whole cultural movement that has helped turn adults into "forever children"--who are then raising children.

Sudhakar writes:

I cannot agree more. I could tell with my own children when they were even younger (about 2 years old) what their personality would be like. My youngest of three is a teenager now, and I am surprised how little their outlook towards life has changed. It has also allowed us to make adjustments to the way they are taught.

One thing I need to emphasize here, is that I found almost any deficiency can be overcome with hard work, if it is caught early. However, I have rarely met a teacher who has brought up issues about our kids' learning. We were on our own when it came to getting our kids tested outside the school, and making up for any shortcomings by teaching at home.

And I second the notion that parenting efforts should increase, not decrease, when the kids are in middle and high school. In my opinion, that is the dangerous time when the tendency to take risks is the highest, and judgment is at its lowest.

I hadn't thought of your idea (in your last paragraph) but that's good, too. I was thinking about teaching the middle and high school students themselves about parenting skills, since so many aren't learning them from the adults in their lives and we have such a high rate of births among out-of-wedlock situations.

It's not enough to provide day care centers in high schools now so the mothers can continue with their schooling. They should also be required to attend parenting classes as part of their condition for continuing their education.


Link to Sudhakar's blog:
Its Action Time



Anonymous said...

This article goes to show you, there's a split within Democrats.
McCain is completely out of the picture.

The particular flavor of liberalism being discussed by conservatives and liberals alike is socialist fascism - or christian liberalism - or holy capitalism. Conservative fascists (libertarians) or anarchists fit in the same spectrum, just at the other extreme (Anne Coulter).

Conservatives and liberals have always maintained that US public education has been on the decline.
50 years ago, there were at least as many reports about post-secondary education as there is today and even a century ago, wealthy young Americans were visiting Europe to acquire a 'liberal' classical education.

It does not help that Brooks is from Chicago.

Improve the textbooks and much of this becomes academic.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Anon,

I agree that improved materials will help ...but I think this article is right on the mark.

The decline of family can not be overlooked in fact this is an enormous cause of many of our ills.

In the late 1980s James Coleman of Un of Chicago wrote an extensive piece on schools and social capital. He looked at how individuals and institutions had increased power at the expense of the family. This was given at a University of Notre Dame Law School a symposium on schools and society.

Coleman presented a continual sliding away of social capital in our society as an agrarian farm based extended family network with shared values, activities, and hopes gradually disappeared from 1800 to 1985.

The public school is one of the greatest beneficiaries of social capital. When the social capital declines to near zero then the public school suffers dire consequences.

I think Mr Brooks is updating us on the 20+ years since Coleman's observation. MTV2, Gangsta Rap, gangs, etc. have been a largely negative influence in an increasingly narcissistic society where many adults are over-worked and too few having sufficient time to positively impact children's lives. The assaultive barrage of peer and media nonsense produces situations in which children and families are often the losers.

I think this time David Brooks is Spot on with his thoughts.

Anonymous said...

You realize that James Coleman is the person perhaps most responsible for creating reform math.

He created his own company that marketed mathematical games to disadvantaged children. The same games that are so similiar to the activities one finds in both Investigations and Everyday Math.

The Coleman report was used to implement forced bussing in order to integrate schools. Then afterward, not only did Coleman first describe 'white flight' he recommended using alternative algorthims with 'children of color' - or ethnomathematics.

The educational studies that you are so critically against, are based on statistics that Coleman created.

Do you see my point? You and WTM are certainly as confused as many people are.

Naturally, the public is persuaded by the rhetoric of guarding something so sacred as family, but that should not be the driving issue of this debate.

Output driven schools = Coleman

see Redesigning American Education,M1

The only way to promote a fair, equitable Democracy as opposed to a Fascist one -

1. Nationalized 'best' curriculum
2. Promotion by merit (or exam)
3. Funding based on need, not AYP.

The issues are over equal access to curriculum (including teachers) not integration. Minorities would be as satisfied if they had equal opportunity and equal funding. Privatizing basic education had to be the worst policy - leading to fraud and waste, especially with regard to protecting the poor and disenfranchised.

The 'fidelity of curriculum' controversy is really about access to teachers, not curriculum. According to one group of high brow reformer - textbooks, not teachers matter in this debate and once again the issue is over equity, not professional development.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Anon,

See the responses I added from Niki and Sudhakar at the bottom of the original post.

I only knew of Coleman as a sociologist. His Schools and Social Capital article was focused on the changes in family structure and the impact on student success in school as well as life. It had nothing to do with curriculum or school structure it was more about how changes in both legal structures and other institutions had adversely impacted families. This adversely impacted schools and thus society in his opinion.

I know nothing about James Coleman's views or actions in regard to school curricula and Mathematics.

Anonymous said...

Then you and WTM really need to get an education - trying looking up Coleman's Theory of Civil Religion which strives to explain the following. Also, you might find intriguing a related problem having to do with the double bind hypothesis. Coleman -

a. Defines the American civil religious system.

b. Structurally differentiated in the civil and religious community.

c. Religious functions carried outside of church and school.

d. Parallels between the differentiation of civil religion activity and cultural evolution.

Duped may be too strong; certainly uninformed.

Human capital development is just a theory and while it might be nice to legislate parenting classes and morals, schools are stepping into an ill-suited role.

Perhaps this is why there was very little comment over what should have been an uproar over Carkhuff -- dividing student populations into two groups - probabilities schools v. possibilities schools.
Or why you have lawmakers making ludicrous proposals like dual immersion magnet schools or alternative schools that don't graduate high schoolers.

As you can see, it is impossible to address curriculum improvement without also changing the current model for standardized reform. And so long as you have two sets of different expectations operating in school there will always be one culture oppressing another and by definition that is a fascist democracy and all the negatives that go with one.

e.g. Columbine

Anonymous said...

These are some of the ideas Coleman advocated -

In a Forbes article in 1987, he urged not blaming the deteriorating school system "all on the teachers: the greatest culprits are parents and changes in family structure."
(I don't think Coleman would have argued schools should teach parenting classes for the following reason.)

Coleman argued that Catholic schools do a far better job of educating than either public or nonreligious private schools in America because they "function much closer to the American ideal of the 'common school,' educating children from different backgrounds alike."

He also rejected the practice, begun in the 1960s, of "course proliferation." Students were allowed to select so-called relevant classes, such as sci-fi or film making, in addition to regular studies. Coleman argued this might be fine for the A student in English but not so fine for the marginal learner.

James Coleman served as advisor to President Richard Nixon in 1970 concerning plans to give northern and southern school districts some $1.5 billion to lessen the harmful effects of school segregation. However, he was critical of Nixon for claiming the administration would act against de jure (by law) segregation and not de facto segregation (what actually exists).

Coleman said that racial segregation had to be erased no matter what the cause because doing so is the most "consistent mechanism for improving the qualify of education of disadvantaged children."

I don't think Coleman would have disagreed with my conclusions -
1. promotion based on merit
2. national 'best' curriculum, like Singapore.
3. funding based on need, versus AYP.

Also, I would agree with his assessment of Catholic schools, except cost and space are major deterrents for most parents.

Sudhakar said...

I continue to be dismayed that debates and discussions on issues of such importance continue, while the target of global competition continues to peel away from us.

The salvation of the dire economic state in this nation lies in inventing new solutions to old, existing and future problems, and in making the solutions attractive to the market. As in the past situations, the solution hinges on the technical sophistication of its workforce. While we argue, the sophistication has barely budged, and the numbers of people involved is declining. Since I immigrated from India, I have been keeping track of the numbers vis a vis India. Consider the following:

* In 2005, while we were still debating on the quality of our math standards, India graduated around 200,000 engineers, and the US graduated around 70,000. But they accepted 450,000 freshmen in their engineering schools.

* It is projected that in 2009, the engineering graduates from Indian schools will reach around 350,000, while the US will still be graduating around 70,000 engineers. The freshmen class of 2009 will admit around 700,000 engineers.

* In 2014, when the state of Washington has projected to fully fund the 24 credit high school graduation requirement, engineering schools in India will graduate roughly 600,000 engineers. I have not heard any talk of increasing similar numbers in the US.

Adding up numbers from China, the total number of engineering manpower from the two emerging economies will be almost 20 times that of the US.

The only way to compete with this is with greater technical sophistication, not the mass abandonment that we are seeing both from private companies. States are tightening graduation requirements, which is a start, but funding shortages will slow thier implementation.

While I agree with the conclusions of the last anonlymous post, I am arriving at them from a different angle. That of survival. I happen to believe the time for debate and discussion is long gone. That is why I name my blog "Its Action Time".

dan dempsey said...

Link to ..
Its Action Time

Anonymous said...

Sudhaker -
I definitely concur with your assessments - the debate over standards and curriculum makes absolutely no sense when you look at the sheer numbers of engineers graduating from China and India.

What the US educators will not recognize, is that this group of students has to be selected for at a much earlier age than college.

Of all professions, engineers require the most amount of technical academic preparation (math and science) and the biggest factor is at what age a student has experienced a full year of formal, rigorous algebra.

This is the academic qualification that military recruiters are having the greatest concern filling for the armed services.

The US is experiencing policy-making paralysis - especially when you examine both McCain's and Obama's proposals for making schools work.

Academic preparation has nothing to do with the teachers - its the *$#@*&$ textbooks.

Anonymous said...

This is US policians owning up to the fact, that its method of educating kids is ruled by lobbyists and big money, not sound research. You simply can't make comparisons with other countries, until the US starts implementing similiar policies - promotion based on merit, one curriculum, funding based on need, not choice.

pork barrel is what school finance is-

Fullboat Bennett owns an online school to fund his card business.

Whatever happenned to ethics in America?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I remember a decade ago, leaders were saying the same thing about India and China graduating 20 times the number of engineering professionals and then saying with a straight face to all of us what we needed most was standardized education.

So retrospectively, they were wrong. The NCTM/DOE won't change our present disaster by parading about poorly written textbooks like some fascist jackass. It makes the entire bureaucracy look foolish and corrupt. B. is no exception.

Anonymous said...

As far as US schools go - they are the exception in this world - not the rule. You can't make comparisons with other countries because we promote students socially, not by merit. This is one element of humanism and it is a part of our civil religion. So long as we use different textbooks and call all students equal, our schools will never turn out large numbers of technical professionals, at least to be competitive with countries like India and China. Their education systems select for these students and promote learning advanced math classes at an earlier age.

Anonymous said...

Revised 9-12 standards adopted in Washington State. Hold on to your calculators!

Sudhakar said...

I am of the opinion that every country that has beaten the US in math education has got there using a different path. But NO country that I know of has got there by lowering the standards.

Since I know more about India, let me elaborate on it a little. Barely a decade ago, it was still considered a third world country. And it still is, in many ways. The leadership made a decision to focus on high educational standards decades ago, with a vision (rightfully so) that universal education and high standards will lead the nation out of the third world morass. I believe educational attainment is a LEADING indicator of India's progress, and economic decline is a TRAILING indicator of educational mediocrity in this country. Unlike many countries in the west, India did not get to where it is through socialized education. It got there through a free market system in education. Latest statistics show that greater than a third of the 214 million students in K-12 system are in private, for-profit schools. The rest are in government run public, or non-profit private schools. But except some very expensive schools which adopt IB or Cambridge curricula, the standards are uniformly high for all these schools. In addition, (1) There are no social promotions (2) Grades are not inflated (3) Admissions to good colleges are very competitive, often with the college's own entrance exams, which are often tougher than state exams (4) Teachers are well trained in their respective fields, before licensed to teach. When the environment is such, everyone strives to achieve the highest standard. Contrary to popular belief, smart kids are not tracked. The standards are set high enough to challenge all but the genius level kids.

So, I concur with the people in wheresthemath that lowered standards, in addition to all the other ills, are big contributors to the pervasive mediocrity in our public schools.

Anonymous said...

The lowered standards actually mean US schools operate with two standards (one is official (college prep) and the other is unofficial (moral character development)) making US methods and content appear arbitrary and racist.

And you are correct in saying that standards in India are high enough to select for engineers at an early age (making India's students technically competitive on an international basis). In a third world economy where there is a scarcity of capital, students are competitive, but you need more to educate them. They need schools, teachers, and textbooks. Also, literacy is certainly the number one issue and classes with 40-60 students are probably the norm, not the exception.

US math and science textbooks are written for older students and the majority of our students are never exposed to a formal treatment of algebra or standard algorithms while they're in school. Its an absolute waste of time for our students and teachers spend more time disciplining than they do actually teaching.

Anonymous said...

Blaming children and their parents for low achievement is a value judgement.

If WTM aims to correct textbooks and raise standards then they cannot apply this reasoning, since it forms the basis for the reform movement's own textbooks - which assumes 'Disadvantaged children cannot take advanced math and science until they are mature enough.' (child development psychology)

I believe this is why WTM has not been as successful as it could have been in replacing textbooks.

The first inequity occurs in elementary school where multiple non-standardized algorithms are taught and actually lowers student achievement.

In addition, poor teaching is accummulative, so by twelth grade, the majority of students have still not progressed beyond seventh grade standards.

The best argument for change is making comparisons of student achievement in other countries and noting the differences in school cultures.

A national standard with curriculum (such as Singapore) would help eliminate most of the waste and fraud currently in school.

Eliminating standardized tests which penalize schools and students would certainly help.

Eliminating social promotion would be significant and should be a goal for all US schools.

Anonymous said...

this is a nice editorial and response - I like the comments and figuring.

PAS ($28.5 m - 2007) declared ineffective. I should know, I taught next to a PAS classroom and it sounded like a pack of cats.

WA fresh enrollment 2004 = 89,970
WA sen-enroll Oct2007 = 72,696
WA sen-enroll Jun2008 = 67,099
WA sen-passed WASL = 61,327

If you made the math WASL a requirement, WA would have a 68% graduation rate. One commenter pointed out where did 23,000 potential seniors go? And they say Washington doesn't have thin air?

I saw it happen in my community and the answer is easy - they don't go anywhere - those kids stay and you can thank our lunatic school system led by an idiot for creating this crisis.

WA remedial programs are an absolute failure mostly because the interventions cannot undo the decrepid sort of learning that has occurred over so many years. PAS looks like it was written by the undead - do they really think just anybody can write remedial curriculum and then to have the nerve to not even test it right. Rank amateurs...

For one, the HS teachers assigned to this monkey business, do not have the training or the patience to put up with an angry mob of kids. An 18 yo. that can't do their times tables is not going to find success in a WA high school or one of their quack remedial alternative or online programs. Don't be misled by OSPI's theosophic, light stooges.

B. -Quak, Quak, Help, I'm dis-sol-vi-ng....12 years of your bs is quite enough.

dan dempsey said...

Now Seattle still has policies in place that forbid social promotion, unused for the last 15 years+.

Seattle also has policy that forbids the introductory item/ action item one meeting only passage of the Superintendent's contract extension and raise.

I wonder if the board has any intension of either writing, revising, or formally abandoning policies. It appears they have no use for following existing policies.

The board seems really concerned about their relationship with the superintendent but has very little concern with how their defiance of their own policies affects their relationship with the community.

It appears the rules are simply made up as they go along.

How can anyone have much faith in public institutions with leaders like these?

Anonymous said...

Students could benefit first from an effective curriculum. Of course, we've been struggling with that issue for the past 15 years too. Can we afford to do this for another 15 years? Does the public have a choice? I'm not very hopeful.