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  1. #281
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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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.
    Sorry to delay in response as I have been off-forum for a bit-hope it isnt too much to bring the thread back a bit to life. The kids in charter schools in texas have to pass the TAKS/STAAR exams just as kids in a normal public school do and receive the same types of ratings that a public ISD would.

    Charter Schools in Texas tend to fall into three categories-those meant to help kids receive a high school degree as they are at risk, those meant for kids in some sort of live-in environment, and those that are "special purpose" or college preparatory. Based upon the below info (I admit needing to do more reading to understand in depth) it appears they must follow a basic set of curriculum approved by the state-likely in the form of required coursework.

    http://www.tea.state.tx.us/index2.aspx?id=2984

    "
    Are there requirements concerning curriculum imposed on open-enrollment charter schools?


    Yes. Open- enrollment charter schools are subject to some, but not all, of the curriculum requirements that apply to independent school districts. For example, their educational programs must include the curriculum required by Texas Education Code (TEC) section 28.002, implement reading diagnosis and accelerated reading instruction programs as required by TEC section 28.002, adhere to the graduation standards of TEC section 28.025, and adhere to requirements regarding special education and bilingual education and pre-kindergarten. See TEC 12.104.
    TOP"

    In addition to fairly standard curriculum, I would expect that a charter school would be required to adhere to keeping religion out of the classroom-but it is a very interesting question give ideas such as intelligent design etc and is worthy of thought as to how it could be exploited by different groups trying to value push on students.

    My expereinces with three local charter schools seems that each does have a differing "philosophy". One school followed the ideas of Gartner and "multiple intelligences", thus tried to offer children a variety of learning routes and recognition that each brings value in different ways into thier classroom experience.

    Another-a school called NYOS-(Not Your Ordinary School)-teaches a more arts/soft approach focused on creativity and performance arts etc. It has an extremely long waiting list.

    One of the most popular charter schools is a chain called "Harmony" which tends to be a science based curriculum. My son has went to two of these and in each he was taking science and math courses 1-2 years in advance of public ISDs, has mandatory science fair projects, robotics courses, and science and math olympiad teams. The Harmony chain has been noted by US News as being very interesting, due to high graduation rates, high college attendance and very high minority rates and low income student populations all in the same schools-they are managing to do what our public schools fail at: Helping poor minority students in bad neighborhoods succeed and improve in life.

    Interestingly, to highlight an example that showcases some of your concerns, the harmony schools were started by a Turkish guy in Houston and staffed by a large number of Turkish immigrant teachers. The conservatives see this as an islamic attempt to infiltrate our schools, and these concerns get fueled by anti-charter folks on the liberal side on shows like 60 minutes. In reality, it appears the kids just get more exposure to islamic culture that the typical xenophobic Texan, via some of the teachers wearing a head scarf or having in service holidays altered by a day or two to coincide with Muslim holidays. The kids can take turkish as a second language and be in the Turkish dance club. (My son has had four years of Turkish so far.) They do not have athletics, band, performance arts, or any athletic facilities. The schools are often in odd places like strip malls, industrial offics space lots or old ugly church buildings that they fix up. (They do not receive facilities funding)

    The controversy does sadden me however, as these schools WORK, and they should be being studied to understand what they are doing RIGHT, instead of vilified by people with a political agenda.

    Our public schools are not functioning as well as we expect them to-if we want to fix that we have to first be willing to admit there is a problem. I have known a number of scientists who wanted to teach high school, but were turned off, not by the low salaries but by the bureaucratic administrative overhead, the extra required "education" coursework, and the treatment that independent thought by a teacher in a public school receives. How can we expect students to think critically if we penalize their teachers for doing so? My sons best teacher left public school in Michigan to teach in a private school that was more flexible-the teachers likely are not the problem-the system itself seems to be the root of the problem.

    @Lark : Charter schools are PUBLIC schools, not private, thus parents dont pay anything for children to go-just wanted to clarify as I noted your post on private education in the UK.

  2. #282
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    It's easier to hold teacher accountable than it is any of the other groups in this discussion.

    Sure parents and kid's general laziness are to blame, but without anyone to hold them accountable, we wont be able to do anything about those issues.

    The easiest group to hold accountable are the teachers, those getting paid to do a good job preparing our students for a global job market with increasing competition coming from over seas.

    We hold the teachers accountable. The teachers hold the kids accountable, who fail, and are then forced to be held accountable by their parents.

    If the parents fail to hold the kids accountable, their futures dim and the likely hood that they will reproduce diminishes. Or their lack of achievement serves as an example to the other students to actually achieve.

    It should be much easier to fail out of college than it is.
    You are correct at least about the highlighted. Moreover, it should be harder to graduate from high school in the "academic track", and harder to get into college to begin with.

    As for the rest, many of the problems of education, indeed many problems in our society across the board, come from doing what is easy rather than what is right or effective. More misplaced accountability on one end does not make up for inadequate accountability on the other end. We can reasonably hold teachers accountable only for what is within their control. Yes, parents and especially students need to be held accountable, and far earlier in the process than graduation and college application time. We need to stop insulating kids from the consequences of their actions, starting when they are very young and those consequences are relatively tame. We also need to make a distinction between effort and accomplishment.

    Quote Originally Posted by ygolo View Post
    I have a discussion section with 13 students for a 6-week course in general chemistry. Students are not required to attend. After, two discussion sessions, there was an exam given in main lecture. The exam was made by the main professor. I did not know what was going to be on the exam.

    I took statistics on those who attended discussions, and how well they scored.
    Those who attended one session scored about 12 points (10% of the exam points) higher than those who attended none. Those who attended two sessions scored about 24 points (20% of the exam points) higher than those who attended none.

    Four people in my section are failing the class (none of them attended discussion sessions before the first exam). One is getting an A- (she attended both sessions). One is getting an A (he attended neither, but asked for and worked the problems I went over during discussion).

    How would you evaluate my performance? How accountable should I be for the students who are failing?

    How much responsibility should be placed on the students themselves? Should a "systemic" change be made to fix things? (making discussions required?, having assigned homework? Give me freedom to assign or take away points for the course?)
    I would consider it irresponsible to evaluate your performance based upon the information you have provided here. For one, the sample size is too small. Moreover, one cannot assume a causal relationship between attendance at your sections and test performance. Perhaps the students who attend section meetings do so because they are serious about the course and would study and prepare anyway. Your question thus exposes some of the common fallacies and mistakes in attempting to evaluate teacher performance.

    Similarly, I would draw no conclusions regarding the questions in your last paragraph. I would expect, however, that by the time someone gets to university, he/she should be self-motivating, and bear primary responsibility for his/her own education. Yes, there are bad professors and bad TA's who make it unnecessarily hard for even dedicated students to learn. These can be identified by observing how they teach, and given coaching or other assistance to improve, or at worst, assigned other duties or terminated. But university students should not require spoonfeeding.
    Last edited by Coriolis; 07-19-2012 at 12:45 AM. Reason: removed extra word
    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...

  3. #283
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orobas View Post
    Sorry to delay in response as I have been off-forum for a bit-hope it isnt too much to bring the thread back a bit to life. The kids in charter schools in texas have to pass the TAKS/STAAR exams just as kids in a normal public school do and receive the same types of ratings that a public ISD would.

    <lots of interesting charter school info>
    I will take a closer look at this later. As a first cut, I suspected charter schools had to abide by at least some state standards and testing. While this does ensure at least some measure of standardization in what students learn, it raises an interesting conundrum. To what extent does the imposition of these standards limit the creativity of the charter school? Similarly, if the charter schools must follow most of the same content standards as traditional public schools, what are they able to do that the other schools cannot or may not? What keeps an ordinary public school from doing what a charter school does?
    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. #284
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    The easiest group to hold accountable are the teachers, those getting paid to do a good job preparing our students for a global job market with increasing competition coming from over seas.
    Is that an opinion you hold or perhaps a speech you heard somewhere? Because that's as ludicrously political a definition of a teacher as ever served a politician well. And by ludicrous, I mean it genuinely is as smart as a hammer to the head. Do politician's get by with this kind of misdirection? If the vote were mandatory in the US, how many pollies spouting this nonsense would get elected?

    If anyone ever truly believed that education made a country strong, they would not ever leave that power in the hands of teachers. No more than they'd allow common people to amass sums of money without taxing them. They'd co-opt that power. My God. Seriously? Politicians would sit by the sidelines tut-tutting at the teachers if education were in fact that deeply linked to the economy?

    I call misdirection. If politicians are talking this nonsense, they're doing it to hide some other thing that makes them look not worth caring about.

    We hold the teachers accountable. The teachers hold the kids accountable, who fail, and are then forced to be held accountable by their parents.
    If internationally admirable and honestly acquired passing grades for all are the products meant to be manufactured in a school, what a piece of bad luck it is we have to gain the cooperation of new individuals each time, eh? Each new go 'round, the product will or won't exist depending in no small part on conditions that aren't under the control of the producers.

    I think a teacher can know his subject. I think a teacher can learn about his students. I think a teacher can work on finding out how to pass a grasp of that subject to the kind of students he most often sees. If there's something else in a teacher's job, I think you'd better tag it the right way as institutionally-required non-teaching related duties.



    I haz a high horse.
    Bellison uncorked a flood of horrible profanity, which, translated, meant, "This is extremely unusual."

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  5. #285
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    I heard some interesting information recently about education in Finland, a country consistently near the top on achievement, especially in math and science. This includes the fact that standardized tests are not used, and teachers are selected from the top university graduates, then left to do their jobs, without micromanagement. ("Finland abolished standardized tests. Instead of test-based accountability in schools, the country—because of the high quality of its teaching force—had a trust-based system to allow teachers a certain freedom to teach with creativity. Students, too, had autonomy to learn in different ways. ")

    On a related radio broadcast, the comment was made that, by contrast, in the U.S., curricula have to be designed in such a way that almost anyone can teach them. No wonder so much of education appears dumbed down; it is.

    Finland's student achievement
    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...

  6. #286
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    You are correct at least about the highlighted. Moreover, it should be harder to graduate from high school in the "academic track", and harder to get into college to begin with.

    As for the rest, many of the problems of education, indeed many problems in our society across the board, come from doing what is easy rather than what is right or effective. More misplaced accountability on one end does not make up for inadequate accountability on the other end. We can reasonably hold teachers accountable only for what is within their control. Yes, parents and especially students need to be held accountable, and far earlier in the process than graduation and college application time. We need to stop insulating kids from the consequences of their actions, starting when they are very young and those consequences are relatively tame. We also need to make a distinction between effort and accomplishment.
    How can accountability be misplaced?

    All I'm talking about here is a greater level of oversight... say an evaluator sitting in on class once a month to rate the teacher.

    This doesn't have to be about test scores.

    Tenure should be ended permanently.

  7. #287
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    How can accountability be misplaced?

    All I'm talking about here is a greater level of oversight... say an evaluator sitting in on class once a month to rate the teacher.

    This doesn't have to be about test scores.

    Tenure should be ended permanently.
    Accountability is misplaced when you attempt to hold someone responsible for something over which they have no control. Yes, observing how a teacher actually teaches is one of the better ways to assess performance on a realistic time scale. Perhaps tenure as we know it should go, but as with other occupations, there should be a distinction between some probationary period (6 mos - 3 years) during which dismissal is very straightforward, and a more permanent status after which a greater burden of proof is required.
    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...

  8. #288
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    I will take a closer look at this later. As a first cut, I suspected charter schools had to abide by at least some state standards and testing. While this does ensure at least some measure of standardization in what students learn, it raises an interesting conundrum. To what extent does the imposition of these standards limit the creativity of the charter school? Similarly, if the charter schools must follow most of the same content standards as traditional public schools, what are they able to do that the other schools cannot or may not? What keeps an ordinary public school from doing what a charter school does?
    I cant speak theoretically, but pragmatically, empirically, some charter schools seem to balance the rules vs openness and produce interesting results.

    I was pondering random thoughts in the shower the other day, and it made me wonder if that extra bit of flexibility in the rules that charter schools have could be thought of as a sort of metaphorical "degree of freedom". When you want to optimize a system to reach the most optimal output, you want to allow it to change as much as possible, until the best result is achieved, assuming you have some empirical target. When dealing with many items in the system, some will be optimize to a lower energy state than others and be more optimal. Ideally you wean the system and mold all items in the system to be like the most optimal-while still allowing the most optimal to continue to evolve by resetting the targets to be even Lower energy/better if possible. Capitalism sort of does this, in that if you are not an optimal running business you fail and only the most optimal survive-constant ongoing evolution and adaptation sort of.

    In public schools, by constraining the entire system to try and follow the same rules, you confine it to the point it can no longer continue to optimize effectively-any optimization on the small scale gets erased as the system keeps laying down the normative mold to achieve equality or process rather than seek equality of empirical results while allowing freedom within the process. No child left behind is trying to seek equality in results, seemingly a good thing (?) but since most school districts seek equality in the process, you simply loose even more degrees of freedom...thus the entire system declines and ceases to evolve.

    The charter schools sacrifice equality in the process (thus some go under, some are inferior, and some limited number of student educations suffer), while enabling equality (and superiority) in the outcome?? I am making all of this up however, so I really dont know.

  9. #289
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orobas View Post
    I cant speak theoretically, but pragmatically, empirically, some charter schools seem to balance the rules vs openness and produce interesting results.

    I was pondering random thoughts in the shower the other day, and it made me wonder if that extra bit of flexibility in the rules that charter schools have could be thought of as a sort of metaphorical "degree of freedom". When you want to optimize a system to reach the most optimal output, you want to allow it to change as much as possible, until the best result is achieved, assuming you have some empirical target. When dealing with many items in the system, some will be optimize to a lower energy state than others and be more optimal. Ideally you wean the system and mold all items in the system to be like the most optimal-while still allowing the most optimal to continue to evolve by resetting the targets to be even Lower energy/better if possible. Capitalism sort of does this, in that if you are not an optimal running business you fail and only the most optimal survive-constant ongoing evolution and adaptation sort of.

    In public schools, by constraining the entire system to try and follow the same rules, you confine it to the point it can no longer continue to optimize effectively-any optimization on the small scale gets erased as the system keeps laying down the normative mold to achieve equality or process rather than seek equality of empirical results while allowing freedom within the process. No child left behind is trying to seek equality in results, seemingly a good thing (?) but since most school districts seek equality in the process, you simply loose even more degrees of freedom...thus the entire system declines and ceases to evolve.

    The charter schools sacrifice equality in the process (thus some go under, some are inferior, and some limited number of student educations suffer), while enabling equality (and superiority) in the outcome?? I am making all of this up however, so I really dont know.
    By "rules" (see highighted) I assume you mean something other than the state standards. You have identified a key part of the problem in contrasting proces vs. end result, but not quite in the way you describe. Despite the drive for higher test scores, most public schools are very process-oriented rather than results-oriented. Everything from schedules to curriculum to behavior to paperwork must follow certain rules, rules which often defy logic, are rarely questioned or examined, and do little to aid learning, more often frustrating it instead. The sad part is most of these rules are local in origin, meaning a local school board, superintendent, or principal has the authority to change them, but does not out of inertia (it's the way things have always been done), or fear. What you get is a system in which the means justify the ends: as long as the proper process is followed, what comes out has to be good, perhaps even optimal.

    I suspect it is this layer of rules that charter schools often avoid, giving them the flexibility to be truly goal-oriented in their approach. Sometimes their atypical approaches succeed, sometimes they fail. So, in a charter school, students are more likely to experience an extreme, whether of achievement or failure. In traditional public school, they experience a middle ground of mediocrity. Avoiding the useless layer of rules is a good thing; experimenting with the education of even a few years' worth of students is not. Charter school experimentation, or deviation from norms, should be based on demonstrated best practices for the population they serve, and not just the whims or off-the-wall ideas of their organizers.
    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...

  10. #290
    Senior Member sculpting's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    By "rules" (see highighted) I assume you mean something other than the state standards. You have identified a key part of the problem in contrasting proces vs. end result, but not quite in the way you describe. Despite the drive for higher test scores, most public schools are very process-oriented rather than results-oriented. Everything from schedules to curriculum to behavior to paperwork must follow certain rules, rules which often defy logic, are rarely questioned or examined, and do little to aid learning, more often frustrating it instead. The sad part is most of these rules are local in origin, meaning a local school board, superintendent, or principal has the authority to change them, but does not out of inertia (it's the way things have always been done), or fear. What you get is a system in which the means justify the ends: as long as the proper process is followed, what comes out has to be good, perhaps even optimal.

    I suspect it is this layer of rules that charter schools often avoid, giving them the flexibility to be truly goal-oriented in their approach. Sometimes their atypical approaches succeed, sometimes they fail. So, in a charter school, students are more likely to experience an extreme, whether of achievement or failure. In traditional public school, they experience a middle ground of mediocrity. Avoiding the useless layer of rules is a good thing; experimenting with the education of even a few years' worth of students is not. Charter school experimentation, or deviation from norms, should be based on demonstrated best practices for the population they serve, and not just the whims or off-the-wall ideas of their organizers.
    What I see locally is that the scores on test results have become the objective-driving schools to spend upwards of 40% of classtime trying to achive the test results via redundant testing. But if the systems are as locked down as you are describing, it would explain why poor schools still cannot suceed. They are being asked to do something new with the same set of processes.

    I disagree with the bolded. This sounds cold hearted, but if you are seeking to change something to make it better, you have to take the risk of making it worse first. That includes social systems. It seems disturbing because we do not want to do something that places others at risk, but it is foolish to keep doing the same thing we have been doing if it isnt working. I would also argue that public schools have spent many years implementing various "whims" as educational fashion dictated-the exact thing the creed in the OP complained about-but they were done in a very top down manner from the administrative or political level.

    In a charter school, if what you are doing, the "whim", doesnt work-you kids do poorly (or the same as they were doing already for a typical inner city school) and parents choose not to send thier kids there. In effect your school and your whim, go out of business fairly quickly.

    Charter schools survive or perish very quickly, unlike a bad public school. Check out the attached link which illustrates a list of charter schools in the dfw area-with color coded graphics highlighting school performance. This allows a parent to quickly identify if a school is worth sending thier kid to. A bit like consumer reports for buying a car, but instead for finding a good school. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcont.../0710/charter/

    I have heard folks say they dont like the idea of treating schools like a business-but if survive or perish as a business means our children receive a better education, then a cold blooded business model seems worthy. The alternative would be to build back in flexibility into public schools-but is that possible at this point or has the entire system become too constrained via regulation and procedure?

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