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  1. #211
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    The highlighted is of particular concern. It implies no standardization of what children are learning. Are these charter schools held to any state standards at all? Can parents organizing such a school decide they just don't want their kids learning music, or biology, or math beyond basic operations? Can they teach a version of history that denies the holocaust, and whitewashes American slavery, treatment of native Americans, and internment of Japanese? Creationism and sex education (or lack thereof) could be just the tip of the iceberg in such a scenario.
    Check out these two articles from the Economist:

    Education: A 20-year lesson

    Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works

    FOR decades too many educationalists have succumbed to the tyranny of low expectations, at least when it comes to those at the bottom of the heap. The assumption has been that the poor, often black, children living in some of the world’s biggest and richest cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London face too many challenges to learn. There was little hope that school could make any difference to their future unless the problem of poverty could first be “solved”, which it couldn’t.

    Such attitudes consigned whole generations to the scrapheap. But 20 years ago, in St Paul, Minnesota, the first of America’s charter schools started a revolution. There are now 5,600 of them. They are publicly funded, but largely independent of the local educational bureaucracies and the teachers’ unions that live in unhealthy symbiosis with them.

    Charter schools are controversial, for three reasons. They represent an “experiment” or “privatisation”. They largely bypass the unions. And their results are mixed. In some states—Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri—the results of charter pupils in maths and English are significantly better than those of pupils in traditional public schools. In others—Arizona and Ohio—they have done badly.

    Yet the virtue of experiments is that you can learn from them; and it is now becoming clear how and where charter schools work best. Poor pupils, those in urban environments and English-language learners fare better in charters (see article). In states that monitor them carefully and close down failing schools quickly, they work best. And one great advantage is that partly because most are free of union control, they can be closed down more easily if they are failing.

    This revolution is now spreading round the world. In Britain academies, also free from local-authority control, were pioneered by the last Labour government. At first they were restricted to inner-city areas where existing schools had failed. But the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition has turbocharged their growth, and has launched “free schools”, modelled on a successful Swedish experiment, which have even more independence. By the end of this year half of all British schools will be academies or free schools. Free schools are too new for their performance to be judged; in academies, though, results for GCSEs (the exams pupils take at 15 or 16) are improving twice as fast as those in the state sector as a whole.

    It is pretty clear now that giving schools independence—so long as it is done in the right way, with the right monitoring, regulation and safeguards from the state—works. Yet it remains politically difficult to implement. That is why it needs a strong push from national governments. Britain is giving school independence the shove it needs. In America, artificial limits on the number of charter schools must be ended, and they must get the same levels of funding as other schools.

    The least we can do

    In rich countries, this generation of adults is not doing well by its children. They will have to pay off huge public-sector debts. They will be expected to foot colossal bills for their parents’ pension and health costs. They will compete for jobs with people from emerging countries, many of whom have better education systems despite their lower incomes. The least this generation can do for its children is to try its best to improve its state schools. Giving them more independence can do that at no extra cost. Let there be more of it.
    Charting a better course

    Charter schools raise educational standards for vulnerable children

    “EVERYONE’S pencil should be on the apple in the tally-mark chart!” shouts a teacher to a class of pupils at Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis. Papers and feet are shuffled; a test is coming. Each class is examined every six or seven weeks. The teachers are monitored too. As a result, Harvest Prep outperformed every city school district in Minnesota in maths last year. It is also a “charter” school; and all the children are black.

    Twenty years ago Minnesota became the first American state to pass charter-school laws. (Charter schools are publicly funded but independently managed.) The idea was born of frustration with traditional publicly funded schools and the persistent achievement gap between poor minority pupils and those from middle-income homes. Charters enroll more poor, black and Latino pupils, and more pupils who at first do less well at standardised tests, than their traditional counterparts.

    Today there are 5,600 charter schools, and they serve more than 2m pupils in 41 of America’s 50 states. This number has grown annually by 7.5% since 2006 (see chart), but is still tiny: charters enroll less than 4% of the country’s public-school students. Some places have taken to charter schools particularly enthusiastically: in Washington, DC, 44% of public-school students attend a charter school.

    That figure is dwarfed by New Orleans. There two-thirds of students are in charters, thanks to an overhaul of the city’s disastrous schools after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Today half of charter schools in the city are improving reading or maths at a significantly faster rate than competing public schools; and across the state as a whole charters are performing better.

    Parents like charter schools, and waiting-lists for them are growing faster than new places. Nina Rees, the new head of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, says more than 600,000 children are on waiting lists. Oversubscribed schools choose pupils by lottery, something poignantly illustrated in the documentary film “Waiting for Superman”.

    Although charter schools have won support from across the political spectrum, they have always attracted controversy. Much of the unease has been stirred up by teachers’ unions; charter schools do not usually employ unionised teachers. As recounted in a new book, “Zero Chance of Passage”, by Ember Reichgott Junge, a former Minnesota legislator who wrote the original charter legislation, unions have from the outset pushed the misleading idea that charters drain resources from traditional schools. They also maintain that politicians who support them are against public education. That is not true.

    Critics of charter schools derive more ammunition from the fact that their performance varies widely. For example, earlier this year the University of Minnesota found that charters in the twin cities of Minneapolis-St Paul lagged behind public elementary schools, ranking 7.5% lower for maths and 4.4% lower for reading.

    Hundreds of other studies have been done on charters; but most are of dubious quality. One recent analysis had to discard 75% of its research because it had failed to account for differences between the backgrounds and academic histories of pupils attending the schools. Much political capital has been made of a 2009 study of 16 states that found that only 17% of charter schools were better than public schools, 37% were worse and the rest were about the same. The work was done by the Centre for Research on Education Outcomes (Credo) at Stanford University.

    The Credo study has been criticised for not comparing the results of children who have won charter-school lotteries with those who have not—a natural experiment in which the only difference between winners and losers should be the schooling they receive. Such studies suggest that charters are better. For example, a lottery study in New York City found that by eighth grade (around 13), charter-school pupils were 30 points ahead in maths.

    However, recent work by Mathematica, an independent policy group, suggests that the Credo study is sound. The bigger problem is that its findings have been misinterpreted. First, the children who most need charters have been served well. Credo finds that students in poverty and English language learners fare better in charters. And a national “meta-analysis” of research, done last year for the Centre on Reinventing Public Education in Seattle, found charters were better at teaching elementary-school reading and mathematics, and middle-school mathematics. High-school charters, though, fared worse. Another recent study in Massachusetts for the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that urban charter schools are shown to be effective for minorities, poor students and low achievers.

    Second, charter school performance is not so “mixed” if you look at the data on a state-by-state basis, rather than across the country as a whole. States with reading and maths gains that were significantly higher for charter-school students than in traditional schools included Arkansas, Colorado (Denver), Illinois (Chicago), Louisiana and Missouri.

    Credo thinks that the variation in quality can be traced to the governing legislation behind the schools. Margaret Raymond, director of Credo, points to Arizona’s terrible results in 2009, which were the result of lax screening of those who were allowed to set up charter schools, and no serious reviews thereafter. Ohio, where most charters are worse than the traditional schools, gained a reputation as the “Wild West” of charter schools because it exercised almost no oversight.

    Massachusetts, meanwhile, has had excellent results and is strict about the schools it allows to operate; the state will step in and close an underperforming school at short notice. Caps on the number of charters in a state drag down performance as much as lax oversight, because they cramp the diversification of the market and discourage investment. Bad laws make bad charter schools.

    Ms Raymond says traditional public schools no longer have the excuse that they cannot be blamed for the poor performance of children because of their background; so competition from charters may improve standards in non-charters, too.

    Moreover, if charter schools go downhill they can usually be closed more easily than traditional schools. Even so, most of those attending a big schools conference in Minneapolis in June agreed that more bad charters should close. Since 1993 15% of charter schools have shut their gates, most because of low enrolment, a sign that the market is working.

    Charter schools have been successful because they offer freedom to shape the school to the pupils, rather than the other way round. Schools can change the length of the school day, fire bad teachers and spend their money as they wish. At Harvest Prep the school year is continuous, with short and relatively frequent bursts of holiday, because that keeps learning on track and kids out of trouble.

    The charter-school concept has also attracted new institutions into early education, says Tim Knowles, director of the Urban Education Institute, which is part of the University of Chicago. The university operates four charters for (mostly) poor black children up to ninth grade (14-15), and college-acceptance rates for children going through them have been above 98% in each of the past three years. This compares with a city average of 35%.

    Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney favour charter schools, but at a time of probable cuts in federal education spending their growth may slow. Despite huge demand, and even though the ingredients for success are clear after two decades of experiment, extending charters’ successes to the other 96% will take a long time.

  2. #212
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Disco I dont know about the US but the UK experience is that independent or private schools are just expensive "educational theme parks" (this was a phrase used by a number of education ministers to describe what has happened to university education in the UK since universal access disappeared with the introduction of fees and the universities right to set the rate at whatever they feel like) which are affordable to a small elite whose money will matter more than merit in any case anyway.

    I'm sure that both sides of the water there's complex rituals and reasons for ivy league schools or universities but in the main it looks like social engineering by rich folk in their country clubs.

  3. #213
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    Check out these two articles from the Economist:

    Education: A 20-year lesson

    Evidence from America and Britain shows that independence for schools works

    Charting a better course

    Charter schools raise educational standards for vulnerable children
    There is nothing inherently wrong with charter schools, or private schools, or even homeschooling as long as they adhere to some reasonable content and skills standards. Going above and beyond is likewise fine, as is having some emphasis: science, arts, languages, etc. There is a happy medium between national, one-size-fits-all regimentation, and educational anarchy. Moreover, you don't need a flashy charter school to motivate disadvantaged kids to meet high expectations. Just look at the famous example of Jaime Escalante.

    Lark is right about the notion of "educational theme parks". Education is no less susceptible than other fields to fads and trends, and kids often suffer as a result. My parents were both public schoolteachers, and lived through some of these "experiments" with their students. (The ones that dicated school building design were particularly hard to reverse once discredited.) Even when an experiment works, the mistake is often made to generalize it beyond the circumstances in which it could be successful. Yes, I am arguing for a degree of standardization, but of result, not method. This is where the local and individual creativity should be brought to bear.

    Finally, I cannot agree with these articles' vilification of teachers' unions. Public teachers make a reasonable wage today only due to the sustained effort of their unions. Teachers in private and religious schools (ununionized) usually earn a good bit less. More to the point, though, is that most goals of teachers' unions focus not on teacher compensation, but on educational content and quality. These include smaller class sizes so teachers can address individual needs better; reduced administrative overhead so teachers can focus on actual classroom teaching; less emphasis on standardized testing and "teaching to the test" vs. helping kids actually understand content and develop habits for lifelong learning; training opportunities so they can keep skills and content current. Teachers know when the system is forcing them to water down the product they are delivering, and they don't like it. Teachers' unions have been active in opposing NCLB, as well as so-called "merit pay" systems that attempt to make unsupportable connections between the performance of individual teachers and the standardized test results of students. The one area where unions might do a disservice is in opposing greater flexibility in and alternate routes to certification, and I am not even sure of their stance on this.
    I've been called a criminal, a terrorist, and a threat to the known universe. But everything you were told is a lie. The truth is, they've taken our freedom, our home, and our future. The time has come for all humanity to take a stand...

  4. #214
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    Totally agree with Coriolis. FWIW, my children attend a charter school and it's a terrific school. But there are plenty of charters that are NOT terrific. It's a completely mixed bag.

  5. #215
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    Of course they do, it would interfere with the wild success of right wing religious propaganda in Texas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CzeCze View Post
    Ha yeah, I was just saying your OP is part of the overall "lets take our kids and country backwards in the name of Christian fundamentalism" shtick. No doubt thoe same peoplpe and compatriots are also the ones lobbying to teach Creationism in public schools.
    You forgot that some key points of this rhetoric include calling everyone who doesn't think like you a communist and worshiping the variety available to us cheaply at Wal-Mart.

  7. #217
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheelchairdoug View Post
    *reads entire thread*



    *notices that it took the same twists and turns as virtually every thread on a controversial topic on any internet forum*







    That said, I largely agree with @Jennifer's insights into how citizens view matters such as this in Pennsyltucky. I never thought I'd say this, but thank god for Philadelphia and its' voting citizens.
    You should hang out on a forum full of European nationalists. The political conversations are so entertaining and different I don't even get emotionally involved. I've learned quite a lot from it.

  8. #218
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    Quote Originally Posted by AffirmitiveAnxiety View Post
    There actually might be a point to this though.

    We need people without critical thinking, who have no hope and no frame of reference outside of external systems, so that the basics of a society are carried through. There will most likely always be someone at the bottom cleaning the shit, there needs to be. If everyone was out reaching for the stars who is building the ladder to get there?

    I wanted to ignore this idea as it popped into my head, but guess what? That would be a supression of original thinking and perspectives, if not especially critical.

    See id love to believe that the above was not true, that we can all aspire to some dream we have, but the reality of most people's lives is so often the opposite.

    Some might say what does this have to do with critical thinking....well id say everything. People breaking out of established systems is the first sign of critical thinking, of looking at the components and the string ties and saying: 'Hey this doesnt have to fit like this' or 'Why do I need to do this?' And of course: 'There are so many flaws with this'.
    Well the conclusion I've come to is that there's a strain of authoritarianism in human nature which is inescapable. This is how liberals can become fascists, imposing their will all the same, claiming things like multi-culturalism should be the standard, and taking offense to people safe-guarding their own culture's customs.

    There's something about people which makes them want to push their agenda on one another, form themselves in hierarchies, and wield swords against "the other"...whether that be race, nation, religion, or other creed.

    Even more interestingly, the people who can achieve this behavior most viciously are generally the most powerful. Look at some of the most powerful nations in the world: the U.S., China, Russia...look at their histories. And look at how everyone else complains about them. But look at how big and powerful they are.

    I'm not suggesting this is right or wrong, but that it simply is.

    I have my own strong opinions, but that's not my point in this post.

  9. #219
    Happy Dancer uumlau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Totally agree with Coriolis. FWIW, my children attend a charter school and it's a terrific school. But there are plenty of charters that are NOT terrific. It's a completely mixed bag.
    And public schools are a completely mixed bag. The difference is that you have to move into a neighborhood with a good public school, but you can just send your kid to the charter school of your choice, as long as its within what you judge as a reasonable commuting range. If no one decides to go to a charter school, it goes under; a public school that does badly is usually not closed, and is often given more money.

    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    Finally, I cannot agree with these articles' vilification of teachers' unions. Public teachers make a reasonable wage today only due to the sustained effort of their unions. Teachers in private and religious schools (ununionized) usually earn a good bit less. More to the point, though, is that most goals of teachers' unions focus not on teacher compensation, but on educational content and quality. These include smaller class sizes so teachers can address individual needs better; reduced administrative overhead so teachers can focus on actual classroom teaching; less emphasis on standardized testing and "teaching to the test" vs. helping kids actually understand content and develop habits for lifelong learning; training opportunities so they can keep skills and content current. Teachers know when the system is forcing them to water down the product they are delivering, and they don't like it. Teachers' unions have been active in opposing NCLB, as well as so-called "merit pay" systems that attempt to make unsupportable connections between the performance of individual teachers and the standardized test results of students. The one area where unions might do a disservice is in opposing greater flexibility in and alternate routes to certification, and I am not even sure of their stance on this.
    From yesterday's WSJ opinion section:
    America Has Too Many Teachers
    Public-school employees have doubled in 40 years while student enrollment has increased by only 8.5%—and academic results have stagnated.


    Public-school employees have doubled (and spending has tripled), and we have nothing to show for it. I don't believe that teacher's unions are evil, but neither are they angelic, and they do often get in the way of efforts to spend money more effectively. They enforce "tenure" and oppose merit pay, and in Wisconsin, they'd rather suffer layoffs than have benefits restructured in a sustainable way. I do not regard them as the sole problem with public schools, but they are part of the forces that wish to prevent any change that involves spending less money or firing bad/mediocre teachers: that's just the nature of unions.

    They can focus on "educational quality" all they want, but note that your list of improvements includes lower class size (i.e., lower work load) and blaming others (it's those administrators and testing standards), but not anything that resembles "merit pay" or the use of any kind of a metric to measure teacher quality. It's one thing to oppose particular metrics and favor others, but opposing all metrics other than seniority suggests less-than-unselfish aims. W/r to class size, the WSJ opinion piece I linked points out that we do have lower class sizes, but that doesn't appear to produce better results than higher class sizes did 40 years ago.

    As for reasonable wages, what is a "reasonable wage"?
    http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state/
    Are these reasonable or unreasonable? Why? Why not? Did you remember to factor in the 9-month work year? (Feel free to google for other lists/sources)

    Note that one valid possible solution for increasing wages and improving educational results is to hire fewer, more effective teachers at higher pay (think in terms of being high enough to attract them from other careers). Think unions would go for that? I think it would be worthwhile to have school in session year round: would the teachers want to forgo their 3-month summer vacation, even if it meant more pay?

    FWIW, teaching is one of the jobs I was considering, at least for a while. I've enjoyed teaching the few chances I got (both as a TA in graduate school and in special summer school programs for high school students when I was in college). It was a blast: I really enjoyed it, and those who've seen me explain things tell me I ought to be a teacher. But it didn't take much research for me to decide that a career in teaching would suck, and not because of the pay (my degree in most cases would ensure a fairly high pay, as long as I found a district that could afford it), but because of the unions and the politics and the one-size-fits-all nature of public education. (Remember, we INTJs generally don't like being told how to do what we do!) I often wonder how many other qualified potential teachers make the same decision.
    An argument is two people sharing their ignorance.

    A discussion is two people sharing their understanding, even when they disagree.

  10. #220
    right on the left wing Philosorapteuse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Disco I dont know about the US but the UK experience is that independent or private schools are just expensive "educational theme parks" (this was a phrase used by a number of education ministers to describe what has happened to university education in the UK since universal access disappeared with the introduction of fees and the universities right to set the rate at whatever they feel like) which are affordable to a small elite whose money will matter more than merit in any case anyway.

    I'm sure that both sides of the water there's complex rituals and reasons for ivy league schools or universities but in the main it looks like social engineering by rich folk in their country clubs.
    Yep. I think it's iniquitous that privileged children get better education because they're lucky enough to have wealthy parents and a better start in life to begin with - and that these school get charitable status in the UK. Way to broaden existing social divides. I'd sooner see those school fees poured into the state sector. Don't even get me started on academies. Much of the disproportionate state/independent uptake at the top universities can be attributed to failures earlier in the system - kids at fee-paying schools will get far more support and shine better, even if they're of equal or lesser calibre than the state school pupil who's filled out their forms by themself and never had so much as a practice interview.
    "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." --William James

    I'd be a card-carrying sensotard, but I can't find the goddamn card.

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