The current model of American public education is not successful for the…
The current model of American public education is not successful for the majority of Americans.
American International Performance
Studies have shown that low achievement costs the U.S.$400-670 billion, or 3-5% of the GDP.
For example, Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist, shows that South Korea, a high performing nation has a rapidly growing economy. On the other hand, the Philippines, a low scoring nation, has a slower growing economy.
Many of these cited nations had some other form of assistance.
After the IEA results of the 2011 Third International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMSS, Arne Duncan called the performance of the United States to be unacceptable.
In the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, the US was 33 points and 50 points below average top-scoring nations in math and reading respectively.
The gap shrinks a lot if the achievement gap were to be taken into account when considering the scores.
Quoted opinions on the scores
“Today, the battle for America’s future will be won or lost in America’s schools. Unfortunately, victory is not at hand. Indeed, as [Eric Hanushek’s] powerful indictment of the status quo points out, the battle is being lost.” -Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers
“The PISA results show that American students are poorly prepared to compete in today’s knowledge economy. Americans need to wake up to this educational reality—instead of napping at the wheel while emerging competitors prepare their students for economic leadership. As disturbing as these national trends are for America, enormous achievement gaps among black and Hispanic students portend even more trouble for the U.S. in the years ahead.” -Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
2012 PISA Exam
Out of the 34 OECD nations, the U.S. is 27th in math, 17th in reading, and 20th in science.
Math scores in Shanghai, China are two years of schooling ahead of the best students in the U.S.
The United States fared poorly on higher-order thinking math problems. The recognized strengths of American students are reading directly from tables and diagrams, simple handling of data from tables and diagrams, and handling directly manageable formulae. Weaknesses of American students are using pi, substantial mathematization of a real-world situation, genuine interpretation of real-world interpretation, reasoning in a geometric context, and mathematical literacy.
The U.S. ranks sixth in parental education out of OECD nations.
Out of the subjects who took the PISA exam in 2012, 20% reported skipping school within two weeks of the exam, which is above the international average of 15%. They scored on average 24 points lower in the mathematics section.
History of Standardized Tests
Standardized Tests were invented by Frederick J. Kelly in 1914
Reasons for creation
It was a response to the rapid growth of high schools from 200,000 nationwide to 1.5 million in 25 years.
Law had just made 2 years of high school mandatory
World War I resulted in a lack of teachers
Originally known as the Kansas Silent Reading Test. Also went by "item-response" or "bubble" test.
Kelly's Reaction to Growth
Kelly never planned for the tests to be permanent.
Later, as president of the University of Idaho, Kelly wrote a number of papers attempting to do away with his test.
Sought uniform ways of judging achievement, but Kansas Silent Reading Test was not the right way
Following World War I he fought to make education more liberal, integrated, and problem-based curriculum.
It was soon adopted by the College Entrance Examination Board for the SAT. Education and business schools had also adopted it.
“This is a test of lower order thinking for the lower orders.” -Frederick J. Kelly addressing standardized tests.
“College is a place to learn how to educate oneself rather than a place in which to be educated.” -Frederick J. Kelly
Common Core: Do it and its Standards Work?
Jeanette Deutermann believes standards should be set by individual school districts.
She cites the use of tests as measuring tools for teachers as a reason they teach to the exam.
She believes schools are no longer lively because of Common Core.
According to the OECD, a successful implementation of Common Core would help raise American test scores by a significant margin. Much of the issue though is that American students rarely see concepts covered in realistic "real-world' problems.
The United States is one of only three OECD nations that uses additional non-national examinations rather than just national exams.
80% of American students attend schools where achievement data is public, above the 45% OECD average.
Schools with more autonomy rather than set curriculum perform better typically on PISA exams.
Common Core should be an option for schools, but should not be mandatory as it forces all students to fit a cookie-cutter shape that can cause some students to resent the system and, therefore, lose interest in school and learning.
14% of Americans feel that standardized test scores are important in revealing the effectiveness of schools.
64% of Americans believe too much emphasis is placed on standardized tests.
Most parents feel tests should not be used to measure the effectiveness of teachers.
Jeanette Deutermann says standardized tests are turning schools into assembly lines.
“He went from being a child who looked forward to school in the morning and would return home talking about the projects and interesting things that went on in the classroom to a child who cried at night, had stomachaches, and begged to stay home in the morning. This behavior began abruptly in 3rd grade, two months before his first state assessment.” -Jeanette Deutermann, mother of two children who attend public school.
Cathy Davidson feels that standardized tests force our schools to keep educating students for the past when they need to educate them for the future. She feels the rigidity of the tests leaves little room for key lessons that affect students' lives.
My personal opinion in regards to standardized is one of the negative nature. I personally perform quite well on standardized tests, in my opinion simply because my mind works well memorizing details. Also, being in a Catholic school I am not subject to as many standardized tests. All this being said, I do not feel that the mind of a human being can be represented by a set of numbers and letters. Being able to memorize facts and details and spit them back out is a magnificent quality, but it does not truly represent intelligence.
Cultural and Socio-economic Factors
Differences in Performance between Advantaged and Disadvantaged Students
Studies have shown that poor achievement in low-income students arises from low literacy and poor health at home as well as residential mobility and racial isolation rather than in-school issues.
Cathy Davidson says that low test scores may inaccurately represent the knowledge of students from low-income families. Rather, she feels it represents more a lack of concentration on exams.
Out of OECD countries, the U.S. has an average share of disadvantaged students.
The United States has a significant advantage over other OECD nations because the per capita GDP is third amongst member nations.
5% of American students are considered resilient, meaning they are amongst the most disadvantaged 25% of the population and perform far better than expected based on socio-economic factors. This is down from the 7% average amongst OECD nations.
Only 76.1% of low-income students graduate high school.
Racial and Cultural Differences
Two-thirds of the achievement gap is caused by cultural factors according to Drs. Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom.
A survey showed that African Americans peak at 4 hours of homework a week, Caucasians did twice this, and Asian students did up to 35 hours
Another survey revealed that the lowest grade a student could bring home with no consequences was an A- for Asian students, B- for Caucasians, and C- for African Americans
Expectations by Asian parents cause their kids to apply to enroll in three times as many AP classes than their Caucasian counterparts.
Thernstrom states that good schools try to transform the culture of students, thus increasing their achievement.
“The racial gap in academic issues between Whites and Asians on the one hand and Blacks and Hispanics on the other hand is an educational crisis. It is an American tragedy and a national emergency for which there are no good excuses.” -Dr. Abigail Thernstrom
Cultural differences are one of the biggest limiting factors to the education of some students who live in certain areas. Many social situations make it very challenging for students to perform at their best due to home situations and other issues. If teachers could help change the culture of students, it would improve not only the students' grades, but also the students' would be more likely to be excited about learning and would pay more attention in classes.
The gap between Asian-American and Native American students, in graduation, was 30%.
Graduation rates are up 7.6% for Blacks and 6.8% for Hispanics.
Graduation rates for Native Americans/Alaskans is 71.6%, 77.8% for Hispanics, 90.2% for Asian/Pacific Islander, 74.6% for Blacks, and 87.6% for Whites.
In choosing where to attend school, parents and children consider the quality of teachers and curriculum to be the two most important factors.
Minnesota passed the first charter school law in 1991. Now 43 states and Washington D.C. allow charter schools to operate.
Almost 3 million students are in 6,700 charter schools. Some charter schools take place only online.
This is the fastest growing form of schooling in the United States.
Many people feel that it offers a new system for neglected children.
There are supposed to be non-selective and draw names from a hat when there are too many applicants.
Some people claim they are guilty of cherry-picking.
Are believed to not draw best students away from district schools.
A lack of special education programs turns many of the most challenging and needing students away.
Free to attend and funded by tax dollars and philanthropists. But, some, about 12%, are now owned by for-profit groups.
54% of people believe charter schools provide a better education than district schools
“Traditional public schools too often seem to be buried under the weight of a heavy educational bureaucracy and rigid union rules, which together can dictate who gets hired, make it difficult to remove ineffective teachers, and generally absorb too much energy and money.” -Dr. Gregory K. Fritz
Dr. Gregory K. Fritz feels the best part of charter schools is that they offer freedom for innovativeness. But, he feels they need to be rigorously evaluated and disbanded if they become inadequate.
Students in 20% of charter schools perform better than their district school counterparts, while 33% score worse.
Many have special focus areas and programs that traditional schools do not offer.
My opinion on charter schools
I believe charter schools are beneficial by design, offering a different way of teaching to students who struggle to work well with the district school system.
My problem with charter schools arises when segregation amongst students occurs based solely on the student's academic performance. I feel that determining someone's education solely based on grades and tests does not fully demonstrate that student's true intelligence or other factors that may cause differences in the student's performance.
I think charter schools should be given full control over how to instruct students and should attempt a schooling without the emphasis and stresses of standardized testing.
Finland places tremendous trust in teachers to use a "whatever it takes" mentality around students.
Teachers are taken from the top 10% of the graduating class and must earn a master's degree in education.
Almost 30% of students have additional help from teachers.
Schools are kept small so teachers know the students.
Teachers follow the students through their education.
40 years ago Finland changed its education system as part of an economic recovery plan.
First in reading on the 2000 PISA exam.
First in math on the 2003 PISA exam.
First in science in 2006.
Second in science, third in reading, and sixth in math in 2009.
They have recently dropped in their test scores.
All the schools take teachers from the same pool of graduates, guaranteeing a good education no matter where it is.
The only mandatory standardized test is at the end of senior year of high school.
No competition between students, schools, or districts.
Homework is almost obsolete, teachers spend less time at schools, children spend extensive time outdoors, and schooling does not begin until age 7.
Teachers attend a variety of free workshops.
Quotes from educators
“If you only measure statistics, you miss the human aspect.” -Timo Heikkinen, principal of 24 years in Helsinki
“Equality is the most important word in Finnish education.” -Olli Luukkainen, president of Finland’s teachers union
“We prepare children to learn how to learn, not how to take a test.” -Pasi Sahlberg, a member of Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture
My opinion on Finnish Schools is that they are doing very good work to innovate, but I do not believe it is a true alternate for America's education due to the vast size and wide reaching cultures of our country.
The Gatton Academy of Math and Science
Located in Bowling Green, KY
Ranked #1 in Newsweek's 2012 Best School rankings.
Its test scores, graduation rate, and college-matriculation rates are the highest nationally.
It is a public boarding school opened in 2007 that is designed based on the Early College Model
It selects 126 students solely on academic performance, with a hope of achieving economic and racial diversity.
It has a $2.6 billion budget from the state. Its style appeals to legislatures because it helps students get out in society quicker and become taxpayers and leaders.
“Every school can offer each student something—from music to metalworking—that answers the ‘when will I ever use this?’ question.” -Tim Gott, director of Gatton’s academic programs
“Everywhere in this country we celebrate basketball and football talent. The talent we really need to celebrate is math and science.” -Julia Roberts, Gatton’s executive director
Funding and Teaching
Funding by State
Nationally, $11,009 are spent annually per student.
New York spends the most at almost $20,000
Idaho and Utah spend the least at just over $6,000
Nationally the most spent per student was in 2009 at $11,585.
Kentucky has seen a 4.1% decrease in funding over the last four years.
The United States spends more on education than any other country, but it has not caused an increase in positive results.
Diversity in Teaching
Less than 2% of teachers in K-12 public schools are African American males
Will Thomas is a social studies teacher at Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School.
He is one of the few African American male teachers.
His students struggled immensely in his first year, but after taking attending multiple workshops and political activities, and making parents of students attend field trips. He also tutors a lot of his students and saw tremendous improvement.
He dedicates much of his out-of-class time to working on lessons.
Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. high school is 90% African American.
Twice as many alternatively educated teachers think teachers should be recruited from outside careers than traditionally educated teachers
Thernstrom thinks teachers should be educated in the field they teach
Keeping Best Teachers in Toughest Schools
No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning
, Drs. Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom claim that public school systems discourage the best teachers from staying in the toughest schools.
Thernstrom believes teachers should be paid more to work in tougher schools. This would help to close the gap.
Improving work conditions in these schools would also help.
Class Size: Does it Really Matter?
80% of people believe larger classes with more effective teachers are better than smaller classes with less effective teachers.
Teachers say large classes minimize the ability to give individualized attention to students who may need it.
When California made class cuts, 90% of parents gave positive reviews.
The Project STAR study in Tennessee took 6,500 kindergartners in 330 classes and split them into smaller and larger classes. When they were reintegrated in fourth grade, the smaller class students performed better and were better behaved.
Studies show that classes of 15-18 students maximizes the benefits. It is also better if the smaller classes are used at a younger age.
Smaller classes can help shrink the gap for minority students.
9 states require no evaluation of new teachers.
Only 23 states require evaluation past the first year
15.6% of core high school classes are taught by teachers who didn't receive a degree in the subject they teach. This is 21.9% in low-income schools.
Will Thomas is a staunch supporter of teacher unions saying that they help teachers collaborate.
Steve Perry, Ph.D., is a principal in the lowest performing district of Hartford, Connecticut. The district is 86% black and 70% low-income. His school has sent every student to university.
Perry feels that unions prevent his staff from being able to collaborate as much as possible due to limits on teacher meetings.
Finland has a very powerful teachers union.
Many parents consider high-quality teaching to be the most important factor in influencing academic outcome
75% of parents trust teachers.
Stephan Thernstrom says a good teacher is one whose students improve over the year a significant amount.
Almost all Americans feel that improving the quality of teachers would improve the effectiveness of public schools.
Many Americans see the lack of funding to be the most important issue in public schools.
The number of teachers exiting the profession has increased by 50% over the past decade.
My personal opinions
I feel that the United States spends enough on funding our schools, but at times it is allocated inefficiently and can be used in unnecessary areas.
In order for a teacher to teach a certain subject or field, he or she should have at least a certificate in the field and keep up with modern progression and developments of the field. Teachers should also be held to the highest of standards throughout their teaching careers so we can maintain the best core possible.
I believe we should diversify our teaching core as much as possible. It is important to find teachers from different backgrounds who showed excellence in school in order to connect and better educate all American students. For example, in grade school, I had one male teacher in a core subject all nine years and it was for one semester of my eighth grade year in math. I was able to connect far better with him than I was with most of the female teachers I had teaching me for all the years before this.
I think we need to give an incentive to teachers who stay in the toughest schools rather than leaving for better ones. This would be to best way for the schools to help close the gap because they would the better teachers would accelerate the learning of the less advantaged students. I am not saying though that the best schools do not need the best teachers, I am simply saying the less advantaged schools are at a greater need.
Teachers, in my opinion should be offered a wide array of free workshops so they can be introduced to new teaching methods and technologies that can help students not only be taught better in the classroom but also so they can educate themselves better at home.
Class size is a very important factor in my personal education because it allows me to better connect to my teachers and fellow classmates when I am in a smaller class. This allows the teacher to understand how each of us learns best and we can quickly understand what the teacher expects of us.
Educate (v): to develop mentally or morally
I think it is very important for our schools to remember that they are not just teaching students facts and information like fodder for pigs and cattle, but they are tasked with actually developing the mind of the student. This allows the student to continue to teach oneself new information and help the student to always seek information and truth.
Federal Programs to Improve Schools
No Child Left Behind by the Bush administration.
Race to the Top by the Obama administration.
In 2012, enrollment was 50.5% White, 15.5% Black, 25% Hispanic, 4.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1.1% American Indian/Alaskan Native.
It has increased for the fourth straight year.
President Obama cited the Race to the Top grant program as the reason for this growth.
Many experts are slow to give the Obama administration credit.
One-third of first year college students take remedial courses and are half as likely to earn a degree. Many of these are through "credit recovery" classes.
It is currently 83.2% nationally, up 4.2% from 2010-2011.
Alabama went from 72-89.3% during this time. Alaska, Washington D.C., Georgia, Nevada, Utah, and West Virginia also increased by at least 10%.
Nebraska, Iowa, and Texas have some of the highest rates.
Just saying that by increasing graduation rates, we are increasing the educational quality of schools is an incorrect statement. Do not take me wrong, the more people who complete high school, the better. But, if the diploma comes from a school that is just pumping students like products on an assembly line, the education is really worthless.
Though 75% of the 2010 graduating class received diplomas, 1 million students still did not earn diploma that they would have earned.
Arizona and Wyoming were the only states to not see an increase of at least 1%
Public Opinion Nationally
Most American parents would give public schools a C.
Less than half of students receive a high-quality education according to a survey.
80% of Americans think how engaged students are in class and their hopes for the future are the best ways to measure the effectiveness of schools.
Only 50% of American students report they are excited to learn math.