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Old 03-08-2006, 04:14 PM   #1
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Education is not Discretionary

So, I'll start by saying that I do appciate the point that fiscal conservatives make that "throwing money at the problem" that our schools in the US have won't result in prefection (what will?). But as an arguement for tax cuts when our schools are overcrowded, violent and continue to graduate people who cannot read their diplomas, Huston, (and DC, and New York and Chicago, and LA), we have a problem. I don't want to overstate my case here. I think-in fact, I know--that a lot of great teachers are working magic in a lot of US classrooms.

So, a few questions for those who oppose more funding for our schools.

1. Unpack the phrase "throwing money at the problem"--it strikes me as political rhetoric that has become a media soundbyte rather than a policy analysis. What do you mean by that, exactly?

2. Let's say we do reduce funding to fight corruption or waste, which are both worthy and necessary goals in many systems (see for example in DC). What's the mechanism therein that will result in said funding reduction leading to less corruption? And more importantly, better educated kids?

3. What about the link between an superior workforce (which takes superior education) and being economically competitive on a global level? The next step, which is a clear link between our global economic competitiveness and our nationa security?

Finally, yes, as a matter of fact there ARE probems in our schools that "throwing money" at them will help with. Many of the problems in our schools can be traced to two related problems: we don't have enough schools, and we don't have enough teachers.

If and only if we make the position attractive enough (remember, we're competeing with the private sector here for the best and brightest, and that costs dinero) will we be able to hire the number of teachers that we need. High school classrooms, ideally, should be about 12-15 students if we are serious about kids getting the attention they need so that they can problem solve, read, write, think creatively, debate history and politics intelligently, research and preform at high levels in math and science. And if we are serious about our kids' learning being assessed in a manner that is authentic enough to give us meaningful data (standarized tests are find in certain situations, but are very poor as assessment tools). This means we plain ole' need more qualified bodies in more classrooms and more buildings. Every single school I ever taught in was over-crowded, even the one that was brand-new. Thanks to that county's refusal to raise taxes the slight (.01%) amount needed to pay for another high school, this brand new school was at double capacity by its second year of operation. Hence the most qualified teachers went to the next county over, which had slightly higher taxes and so could pay a bit more, hence had better schools and hence higher economic growth. Plus, we have data that shows that over-crowding in schools increases violence. Again, while certainly not every problem in our ed. system can be solved with more funding, these two major problems can. Those who support our schools need to call those who oppose more funding on these points, I believe.

The cliff notes version: we have mediocre education in this country because you get what you pay for.
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Old 03-08-2006, 04:21 PM   #2
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Re: Education is not Discretionary

Quote:
Originally posted by Sherry Darling
1. Unpack the phrase "throwing money at the problem"--it strikes me as political rhetoric that has become a media soundbyte rather than a policy analysis. What do you mean by that, exactly?
Quite a lot here, so I'll start with just the first point.

I think there have been many studies that show no correlation between money spent per student and student performance. When countering claims that spending on students should increase, citing these studies don't have the sound bite impact, for better or worse, than "throwing money at the problem" does.

But, in unpacting the statement, we should recognize the many interests that are involved with the public education system. Fiscal interests taint education policy and can run contrary to the best efforts of many in the education system (noting many efforts described by members here).
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Old 03-08-2006, 04:48 PM   #3
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Re: Education is not Discretionary

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Originally posted by Sherry Darling
2. Let's say we do reduce funding to fight corruption or waste, which are both worthy and necessary goals in many systems (see for example in DC). What's the mechanism therein that will result in said funding reduction leading to less corruption? And more importantly, better educated kids?
I'm not sure the correlation between funding and corruption/waste exists on its own (other than, no money means no money to waste).

Corruption can be addressed with the quality of persons working in the system and with appropriate checks and balances. There are a variety of challenges in addressing the employment decisions (as government workers), and a need for caring management. Checks and balances can simply add more regulation to the workload - in a way creating more waste.

Waste can be addressed by the quantity of work required to run the education system. Unfortunately, between demanding legistlation and consistent court intervention, the education system is forced to address far more issues that simply educating children.

Perhaps a top to bottom analysis and re-working of the system can help achieve these goals, but you run into the same conflicting interests that force maintenance of the status quo.
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Old 03-08-2006, 05:07 PM   #4
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Re: Education is not Discretionary

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Originally posted by Sherry Darling
3. What about the link between an superior workforce (which takes superior education) and being economically competitive on a global level? The next step, which is a clear link between our global economic competitiveness and our nationa security?
As the rest of the world becomes economically more competitive, we will need a workforce that continues to produce a better product if we want to maintain or grow the economic benefits were currently receive.

Education by itself does not achieve this goal - it is but a tool that needs to be available. The desire to be the best (and actually be the best, not just feel that we are the best) is what will drive our ability to obtain or maintain a superior workforce.
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Old 03-11-2006, 08:57 AM   #5
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Re: Re: Education is not Discretionary

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Originally posted by nbcrusader


Quite a lot here, so I'll start with just the first point.

I think there have been many studies that show no correlation between money spent per student and student performance. When countering claims that spending on students should increase, citing these studies don't have the sound bite impact, for better or worse, than "throwing money at the problem" does.

But, in unpacting the statement, we should recognize the many interests that are involved with the public education system. Fiscal interests taint education policy and can run contrary to the best efforts of many in the education system (noting many efforts described by members here).
Thanks for your reply, NBC. Can you cite any of these studies? Every study I've seen shows not a correlation between "spending on students" and student achievement but rather on CLASS SIZE and student achievement. The connection to the need for more teachers, and hence increased funding in at least most school systems, is then clear. I wrote a paper on this actually in one of my MEd classes, and can try to dig it up (its on a disk somewhere) if you'd like to see the studies.

Your statement about competing interests is, sadly, right on. It's not clear to me what "fiscal interests" you're refering to (whose, exactly?) since you don't clarify further.

Will respond to the other posts as soon as I'm able.
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Old 03-11-2006, 09:33 AM   #6
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My father's response to this line of argument is always the NUNS were able to control large classes...

My response is...

They could hit and had God on their side...
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Old 03-11-2006, 11:36 AM   #7
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I have become more supportive of the idea of charter schools, as of late. I think the main problem with public schools is that they are monolithic, unchanging, and noncompetitive--not to mention that 90% of those elected to school boards have no business running a school.

On the other hand, I oppose allowing religious schools to receive public money, but I have no doubt that if the laws were made allowing only non-religious charter schools, the private sector would jump at the idea of investing in a new opportunity.

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Old 03-11-2006, 12:06 PM   #8
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Here is one thing I'm concerned about, being familiar with the teacher education program (here in Canada and somewhat in the US as my cousin couldn't get in here so she went to Buffalo). My Mom is a teacher who also has her MEd and did educational consulting for about 10 years. She is also a published author of a number of teaching materials including a book that's done pretty well here and overseas. My brother is also applying to do his BEd (one year degree here since he already has an Honours BA) and MA combination this September.

I'm trying to say this in a way that won't offend people because I'm certain it will offend some. Teaching is not really seen as something to aspire to these days. I have met only one person in my entire educational career from say high school through university who actually wanted to be a teacher, who had that as her primary goal, she achieved it and is now teaching high school Geography. Now let me tell you about the other people I know who ended up in teaching. They basically couldn't get into medicine, law, pharmacy, dentistry, MBAs, etc and felt like a teaching degree will at least guarantee them a job. Not a single one went to get their BEd as their first choice, but as an afterthought. In today's world, teaching isn't seen as anything prestigious, it isn't seen as lucrative, but rather a thankless job. Opening up more spaces for more teachers - how will this fix anything? If you went and polled university students finishing their BS of BA whether, if they had a choice would go to med/law or teaching, what do you think the ration would be? 9:1? After investing a lot of money into your undergraduate degree, and at the crossroads of choosing a grad degree or a professional program, most people would like to choose something that will make them better off in the longterm. Not only financially, but in terms of prestige. I don't know why teaching has sunk so low on people's list of priorities, but it has.

Now to point #2 which I certainly hope does not offend - I've taken a look at the requirements to get into a BEd. In Ontario, you can start straight after high school in a 4 year degree, but most people actually finish their BA/BS and then just do a 1 year BEd. The academic requirements are really shockingly low. If you have a BA from whatever school and you can read, you're in. Even at the top schools, some of them will take your top 10 credits (ie. half of your university work) and require you only have a 70% average in those for admissions. Think about this, if you could take only the top half of your grades during your BA and conjure up this 70% which by the way is the lowest B- you could get, you're in. And we're talking one of the better schools here. Now I'm sorry, but to me, the standard is unacceptable. Case in point - my cousin whom I mentioned above couldn't even get into a BEd in Ontario with her BA grades, so she ponied up the cash and went to Buffalo for a year, where the admissions standards are even lower, if you can believe that. If you open up more spots to get more teachers, naturally you're going to dilute the field even more. There is no other professional or graduate program in Ontario which is as easy to gain admission to as teaching. I don't need my child instructed by a genius, but I don't want the person teaching him math to be somebody who was a C+ or B- student in mathematics themselves, and I don't think this is an unreasonable request. Unfortunately, how will you fix this? If you raise the standards significantly, you will get a drop in enrollment, because the vast majority of students who have 85% averages will self-select for one of the "beter" programs. How many people with a 3.85 GPA will say "Forget having an MBA, forget getting a law degree, forget being a surgeon, I'd rather be a teacher for a fraction of the pay and none of the respect?" Some but very, very, very, very few. So you're stuck with the admissions policy you do have, unfortunately.
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Old 03-11-2006, 12:25 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon
I have become more supportive of the idea of charter schools, as of late.
Their track record is spotty at best.

Quote:
Originally posted by melon

but I have no doubt that if the laws were made allowing only non-religious charter schools, the private sector would jump at the idea of investing in a new opportunity.
The problem with "private sector" schools is that profit needs to be a motive; the education of children isn't a commodity. And private school teachers aren't paid any more that public school teachers, which speaks to the issues anitram brings up.
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Old 03-11-2006, 12:29 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
How many people with a 3.85 GPA will say "Forget having an MBA, forget getting a law degree, forget being a surgeon, I'd rather be a teacher for a fraction of the pay and none of the respect?" Some but very, very, very, very few. So you're stuck with the admissions policy you do have, unfortunately.
Bingo. I make $70,000+. I have no MA, but I have the "equivalency" in hours. I have ten years' experience. I'm paid well compared to other areas and states. I still couldn't afford to live in SoCal on my salary without other means of support. If I went to Mew Mexico to teach, I'd have to get an MA, and then they might consider paying me $50,000 after a few more years of teaching.

Like you said, there's no status, no respect, and very little pay.

It is, however, one of the few jobs where you know you're part of the solution every day, not part of the problem.
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Old 03-11-2006, 12:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha
Their track record is spotty at best.
Compare that to unequivocal failure for most public schools, particularly in urban areas and those not predominately populated with rich white people.

Quote:
The problem with "private sector" schools is that profit needs to be a motive; the education of children isn't a commodity. And private school teachers aren't paid any more that public school teachers, which speaks to the issues anitram brings up.
And for public schools, there's no motivation at all to do anything. There's not even fear of being fired, which is probably as banal of a motivation as profit.

I write this after learning about Belgium, which has had a "charter school"-like system for decades. While religious schools are included for eligibility in receiving public money (an idea that might work on a continent with less religious fanaticism, but one that I oppose here), public schools have been forced, due to competition, to clean up their act. If they don't, they will go out of business, but there will be plenty of schools to pick up the slack. Such is the nature of business.

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Old 03-11-2006, 12:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


Compare that to unequivocal failure for most public schools, particularly in urban areas and those not predominately populated with rich white people.
Actually, in LA and the Bay Area Edison Schools have indeed not done too well in urban areas.


Quote:
Originally posted by melon

And for public schools, there's no motivation at all to do anything. There's not even fear of being fired, which is probably as banal of a motivation as profit.
This is an easy dismissal without addressing the problem or understanding the issue.
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Old 03-11-2006, 12:40 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by martha
This is an easy dismissal without addressing the problem or understanding the issue.
See my addendum to my last post.

I don't know of any monopoly that has ever succeeded, so why should public education be different?

Public universities, obviously, exist on a different plane of reality when compared to public schools. But they also compete with not only other public universities, but also private universities. I do believe that competition would be healthy for the public school system.

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Old 03-11-2006, 02:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
Now to point #2 which I certainly hope does not offend - I've taken a look at the requirements to get into a BEd. In Ontario, you can start straight after high school in a 4 year degree, but most people actually finish their BA/BS and then just do a 1 year BEd. The academic requirements are really shockingly low.
Here in the states, the individual state sets the requirements.

In Massachusetts....

You have to pass the literacy and communication test before any education program will accept you.

You have to double major as an undergraduate.
Then you have to pass the Education Tests and the subject specific test.
Finally, you must complete your Master's Degree within your first fie years of teaching. If you do not, your certificate will expire.
After that, every five years, you must present credits that demonstrate that you have kept up with your own professional development.
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Old 03-11-2006, 05:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by Dreadsox

You have to double major as an undergraduate.
Then you have to pass the Education Tests and the subject specific test.
Finally, you must complete your Master's Degree within your first fie years of teaching. If you do not, your certificate will expire.
After that, every five years, you must present credits that demonstrate that you have kept up with your own professional development.
And after all that, you don't get paid diddly-shit. Which is why no one in their right mind wants to be a teacher. All that education, and then to make considerably less than your private sector counterparts.
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