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Postby DragonEagle » Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:01 am

yume25 wrote:Why school vouchers? I mean, really? Why not bend the mind around the task of improving public schools?


Well, first of all, most of the teachers are not the best and brightest coming out the university system.

http://capmag.com/article.asp?ID=3700

Second of all, educational spending per child has done nothing but gone up and up (along with the property taxes to fund it) but it doesn't seem like money is really the problem.

I don't want to say that Japanese students are better educated that American ones, but at least it is obvious that the schools are getting by on a LOT less money. No A/C, little heat, big classes, dirt schoolyards, few computers, etc.

I think that adding money is just like adding fuel to the fire. Now schools are "fixing" test scores in order to preserve their funding already, out of control administrators are just out for their piece of the budget, with little thought about how to use that money to improve students lives.
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Postby Smurfette » Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:16 pm

Wow, lots of posting suddenly. About the school choice issue, I'm am pretty lukewarm about it. Having seen so many wonderful theories, and then working the gritty reality every day, forgive me if I seem a bit jaded about something that is going to cure our nation's educational problems in one fell swoop.

First, MT, of course I wouldn't be living in Mid-City. I'm an Uptown girl all the way :P , so my daughter would be attending the Ursuline Academy rather than her zoned Alcee Fortier. (EDIT: here's a link to Fortier...http://www.greatschools.net/modperl/browse_school/la/879/...scroll down to the test results!) I lived around the corner from Fortier for a year in college, and my apartment was apparently on the route to Fortier from Crack Central, so loud, obnoxious, belligerent kids would be walking by every morning. It would take a dollar amount with a lot of zeros for me to even step foot in a New Orleans public secondary school, let alone send my child there, especially a white child. There are elementary schools in Baltimore where I would send my child as a minority (not my school, because of the other students), but not in New Orleans. Seriously, when things are bad at my school, I think, "Well, at least it's not as bad as DC or New Orleans."

At the same time, if kids were allowed to choose private schools, I have a really hard time imagining Jesuit or Ursuline opening their gates up to a flood of poor minority students, regardless of ability. Sure, they let in the token few to prove how "diverse" they are, but with the archaic views on race and integration that still exist in places down there, I don't see a huge number of poor black kids getting into elite New Orleans private schools. This is one problem that I see with a voucher system...we promise these families choices that they might not have.

Another problem is that I have a hard time seeing a lot of the parents of the kids who need it most even making the effort to find a better school for their child. On our back-to-school and PTA nights, we serve food and drinks and give out lots of freebies to parents, yet only about 20 parents show up. If they can't walk across the street from the projects where most of them live (literally across the street...the closest apartment is 20 yards from the school door), what makes us think that they are going to research what they need to do, research schools, get the paperwork and actually fill it out? Sure, some parents will, but a lot will not. Those kids will, through no fault of their own, be left in a school made even poorer by the loss of funds from the voucher system. What is going to happen to them?
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Postby Smurfette » Fri Jun 04, 2004 12:22 pm

Dragon Eagle wrote:Smurfette, I'm really interested to hear your take on school choice/school vouchers. I own my own eikaiwa, I compete for students. I have to give them what they want or suffer the consequences. I am confident enough in my teaching ability that I am willing to compete with other teachers of English for students, I know I can do as well or better than them. I think that there are some (not all) public school teachers who fear this kind of system because they will be exposed as poor teachers.

Okay, let's get this straight. If your students don't get what they want, they either find a new hobby or they find a new eikaiwa...yes, you suffer monetary consequences, but their life goes on. If I don't give my students what they need, I am sending them to the next grade level unprepared to learn skills that they will need to make a living. To an avid reader of Capitalism Magazine, yes, the monetary consequence may seem worse. However, to most people who voluntarily enter the teaching field, losing a child is a horrible feeling, the worst consequence, and it has nothing to do with money. (Feeling insulted, I had originally typed a more scathing response, but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt that by "some," you mean something more like "a limited number.") Comparing eikaiwa to public school teaching is like comparing apples to oranges, unless you have eikaiwa students who are homeless because their moms are fucking smack addicts, but they don't see mom because she pawns them off on whatever relative is around at the time her boyfriend comes to take her out, which apparently is all the time, so they have all this anger towards their mother and have to take it out on the next best thing to a mother, a mother figure...their teacher. No, I didn't have many of those, either, when I taught in Japan.

It's also a bit naive to think that the teachers in the under-performing schools are simply poor teachers. I work in a under-performing school. In my building, we have grades 1-5, 11 regular-ed classroom teachers in all. Four of us are first-year teachers. Five are second-year teachers. That's right, there are only two veteran teachers (one being a "veteran" at 4 years, the other a bona fide veteran of 20+). All of the first and second year teachers are here through programs where we teach as we get our Master's Degree or other teaching qualifications (Teach for America doesn't work towards a Master's, AFAIK.) Are we put in these schools because HR took one look at us and deemed us "poor teachers," or are we there because the more experienced teachers are out at the better schools? The kids most in need of quality instruction, because they come to school least prepared and get little education at home are getting the least experienced teachers, who must not only cope with finding their teaching groove, but dealing with behaviors that you would not believe. We have to create some incentives for getting veteran teachers in classrooms where they are most needed.

One reason that a lot of teachers in under-performing schools are against the voucher program is that they are going to get labeled as "poor teachers" if their kids, who come into school woefully unprepared (when compared to students in other schools), don't score as well on some standardized test as students in more affluent schools, where teachers have loads of resources and human support in teaching students who started out way ahead. Another is that any teacher, first-year or not, is going to be more reluctant to work in an under-performing school if it means that they will be ruining their future career prospects. This means that the kids who are getting the least experienced teachers now will be lucky to have any teachers in the future.

That said, I wouldn't say that I'm against the whole voucher issue, but I'm not for it either. I want to see how it works out in the districts where they are using it first, and if it is done, it has to be done right. If you are into education issues, I would suggest this site over Capitalism Magazine: http://www.edweek.org/context/topics/issuespage.cfm?id=43. Its focus is more on education and less on ideology.

Jeez, I'm not finished, but I gotta go.
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Postby Smurfette » Fri Jun 04, 2004 1:35 pm

Removed...I tried to edit it to add more, but I ended up posting it again below.
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Postby Smurfette » Fri Jun 04, 2004 2:01 pm

Just a couple of quick points:
SrinTuar wrote:[I also had an education reform plan:

1. Eliminate grade levels:
- replace age-based grades with coursework based acheivement levels
- separate advancement in each subject (you can advance at your own
speed in each subject)
- all advancement incumbent upon completion of standarized test

How interesting that you say this...my principal is trying to do this for next school year :shock: . It's an interesting idea, but we won't have the funding, training or preparation necessary to do it by next September, though I don't think the principal is really considering that. :roll:

Dragon Eagle has a point that we need to spend money wisely, and not just throw money at the problem, but he runs into troubles with his generalizations. My schools in Japan had a huge computer room with tons of Internet-ready computers for the students to use. Here in the States, I have a computer in my room that is probably as old as my students and has no Internet connection. There's no A/C, and during a heat wave last week, my classroom got up to 90 degrees, and I don't have the huge windows to open like they do in Japan. We had to take frequent trips to the water cooler (we're not allowed to drink water from the fountains...contaminated with lead). At the cooler, we have to be careful not to trip over the patches of hallway floor where the tiles are missing.

Now schools are "fixing" test scores in order to preserve their funding already, out of control administrators are just out for their piece of the budget, with little thought about how to use that money to improve students lives.

We don't fix test scores at my school (sure the principal promotes students who teachers fail, but that's a whole different issue...social promotion). And your assumption that a lot of money makes it past the school system headquarters into the hands of the administrators is off the mark as well.
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Postby DragonEagle » Fri Jun 04, 2004 2:07 pm

DDog and Smurfette,

You guys have brought up some very, very interesting and valid points. I must admit that I am reconsidering my postitions on several issues. I will get back to you in a few days when I have some more time to type.

Thanks for the food for thought.
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Postby Ojii » Fri Jun 04, 2004 7:47 pm

dogdays wrote:...Music kept me in school until I discovered other things...


DDog, I owe my college education to music. My abilities as a musician got me into college.

BACK TO THE TOPIC:

How much does the national government spend on schooling for one individual?

I'd say, offer that individual a BIG FAT CHECK of an equal amount once they reach the age of 6.

Let them decide on how to spend the money.

I believe that the majority of money spent on people in the K - 12 years is a big waste of tax-payer money, and that includes myself. Hey! I could have used the money, if the government gave me the option, on buying a fancy fast Italian sports car.
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Postby SrinTuar » Sat Jun 05, 2004 1:49 am

dogdays wrote:Standardized tests are wonderful tools to tell us which students do well on tests. And not much else beyond that. Yes, knowing subject matter is important, but most standardized tests.... Forget it, it's clear that I will have to explain too much about testing to make my point here, but those who know the different kinds of tests available know what I am getting at.


Well, in some cases its possible to be a scan-tron hacker.
I remember having an an uninteresting class with a teacher whos scantron pattern was quite predictable. Once I had her figured I didnt bother to stuy the subject anymore, as an A was easiily possible by answering at the questions backwards and relying upon patterns for the infathomable ones. (the "C" selection comprised >60% of the answers in her case)

Anyway, sure, multiple choice leaks too much information. That can be fixed by not using multiple choice.

However, I take issue with the idea that someone who knows a subject could fail to produce answers to test questions. Having all promotion be "social" or subjective is idiotic imo. You either know a subject or you dont.

A properly designed test ***IS*** a model of how you would apply that knowledge in the real world. If you are unable to apply the knowledge in a realistic test, then for all intents and purposes you *do not know it*. (
and should not be given credit for knowing it)
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Postby SrinTuar » Sat Jun 05, 2004 5:58 pm

dogdays wrote:ST,
In fact, I was trying to say that public education has done a good job and that demanding more of students is a good idea. Demanding people to think in school instead of dumbing down things is what I was trying to get at. Sorry if I wasn't clear.


Well, from my experience in the US public school system, I'd have to say its not doing a good job at all. (unless its job is to teach students how to avoid learning)

But about tests again,

The other problem commonly associated with stanardized testing is that it sets the agenda. Normally this is fine, but if the test only covers a portion of a subject, then that is all that wil be taught. If the test is too shallow, then the teacher wont bother to go into detail.

So yes, having standardized testing work is completely depending upon the quality of the tests. If they represent a realistic coverage of the subject and probe both shallow and deep areas, then they will encourage the best learning patterns.

IMO, the tests should be good enough to define the subject at hand. (also meaning they may have to be fairly lengthy, depending upon the subject.)

I like the model used by the JLPT (never taken the tests myself) where the test's domain is precisely specified. (kanji, vocab, and grammar involved are all laid out. the question modes are detailed) (minus multiple choice, that could be eliminated imo, replaced with a simple "fill in the answer" style)
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Postby Diogenes_in_Tokyo » Sat Jun 05, 2004 8:36 pm

FWIW, a better model than the Proficiency Test might be the Japanese University Foreign Student's Exam. Just like the normal Japanese uni entrance exams, it includes a 200 character essay, a Japanese language section, and subject matter categories- physics, chemistry, and biology or general social sciences - and math. The test is a bitch but passable.

I'd love to see how the locals would do on an equivalent test in English instead of the purely multiple choice SAT or ACT...
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Postby monkeypants » Sun Jun 06, 2004 10:17 pm

Smurfette wrote:
monkeypants wrote:Is zucchini even available this time of year?

:shock: Zucchini is a summer squash, so unless you're down under, it should be available. Where are you from monkeypants? If you're not from North America, I might forgive you.


I am from ah, fuck. wherever.
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