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Sunday, December 18. 2011
"Everything You Know About Education Is Wrong"
A groundbreaking study of New York schools by a MacArthur "genius" challenges the typical understanding of what makes a good school.
It's a major short essay. Weissman begins:
Read the whole thing. Schools aren't about money. Excellent education is inexpensive, except for technical levels of science. All it takes is a heated room, a blackboard, a demanding and interested teacher, and some curious kids.
Posted by The Barrister in Education at 13:15 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
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In the 1960s I went through the local Catholic boys high school. We learned a lot. The school had little money but what I now know to be fantastic teachers.
My sons completed high school in 2004 and 2005. During their time there I tried to be an interested and engaged parent.
Their teachers were almost universally stupid and untrained in any discipline. They knew nothing about what they were to teach. Indeed, they knew less than nothing, because much of what they knew was wrong, and I include math and the hard sciences based on math.
The stuff they belched forth on the soft non-disciplines was beyond appalling. They were lefties to a man and woman, and again they had negative knowledge of the actual events and history.
When I am King I will disband every department and faculty of education, tattoo all the teachers, administrators and professors pink, put them to work logging in the Yukon, seize all of their property and flog them weekly.
There will of course be special courts to winkle out the few dozens of good teachers out there. They will be given much of the seized property to reward them for their efforts and compensate them for many years of swimming in a sea of dangerous and repulsive fools.
I will disband every department and faculty of education
I've often wondered why this simple solution to the educational conundrum has yet to be tried.
Caution here. What needs to be measured is not which schools provided the best scores, but the start and finish for students. If you have better students to begin with, they will be easier to give assignments to, will respond to exhortations, be more focused, etc. Then at the end of the year, they will do better on tests and everyone will say "what a wonderful school!"
Did he dare break out the schools by racial & ethnic distribution, and was that weighted? I am sorry to again bring up issues we all wish were not true, but it is worse to keep blaming or congratulating schools for their students.
Here in NH, Hanover HS (with Dartmouth faculty kids) and to a lesser extent Oyster River HS (UNH) have had excellent academic reputations compared with others. When one measures what school systems did with the students they received, however, they uh...do less well, and other schools take top honors. Not that they are bad schools, but a considerable amount of the shine comes off.
All it takes is a heated room, a blackboard, a demanding and interested teacher, and some curious kids.
Sounds lovely doesn't it? Simple, clean and elegant.
Except for the demanding parents who clearly know that their little Jack and Jill's are the most brilliant and personable students in the world and why are you assigning two hours of homework every night and why are you requiring a five page essay on American history and................
Simple truth is that you can be the most demanding, dedicated and competent teacher in the world, until and unless you get parents to understand that not all children are equal intellectually and that they aren't all brilliant.
It's also nice to think about curious and interested kids - I'm sorry to tell you this TB but that ain't the norm anymore - kids want it spoon fed.
Heat? These kids today are pampered. We only got heat when they cranked up the boilers during the Fall and Spring heat waves.
I wish I'd kept the link but about a year ago, Neo-neocon had a commenter who told a horrifying story. Seems their cousin in California was a substitute teacher. The lady, while filling in, had the temerity to tell the kids to study hard and get good grades so they could get a good job. The kids complained to the administration that she was oppressing them. The school told her not to do that again or she'd never be hired again.
So it is culture but the educators' culture not the student culture.
Last time I checked, Japanese (Korean, Taiwanese) public schools were crowded, facilities were poor, students were responsible for some of the building maintenance, teachers were dictatorial, homework was substantial, students also attended for half of Saturday,.... I could go on.
Yet their students achieved more than American students.
Actually not. Asian-American students outperform Asians (essentially tied with Shanghai); American caucasians outperform all European nations (again, tied with Finland); American Hispanics greatly outperform all Latin American nations; and African-Americans greatly outperform all Caribbean and African nations. The schools are fine. We do waste a lot of money on programs designed to fix things we can't fix, because it is unamerican to acknowledge some truths. By doing this, we have increased the failure rate for males, especially black males, far worse than would have happened if we had left things alone.
Finnish and other northern European schools are PC and loosey-goosey. Many oriental schools are stricter than any American schools had ever been. Pedagogy has some effect, but the overwhelming driver of what kind of students come out at Grade 12 is what kind of students came in in Grade 1. It's not close. Other factors are way, way behind.
I don't know why conservatives can't get this. We are supposed to ultimately deal with reality, not treasured narrative myths about what should work.
I went to Georgia State Law School, which is not much more than twenty-five years old. When I started there the school was well known and well regarded in Georgia, the larger Atlanta area especially. Outside the state nobody knew anything about it. For instance, my brother was practicing law in South Carolina when I started, and he had never heard of it.
I intended to go to the University of Georgia Law School, but after checking out Georgia State Law I was sufficiently impressed to go there instead.*
By the time I graduated the school had started to get some national attention; now it's gotten a lot tougher to get into.
What the school did when it was established was spend its money mostly on the faculty. They wanted to hire the best teaching professors they could get, and I understand that they offered pretty attractive salaries to reel the talent in.
What it did not spend money on was facilities. When I was there in the early 00's the school was jammed into the bottom few floors of the "Urban Life Building", an ugly brown-brick travesty of ill-considered 1970's architecture. A real brick scat-pile. The classrooms weren't fancy at all, though a number of them had recently been wired for computers (no Wifi, then, though) and some audio visual equipment.
The school's only now planning to build it's own dedicated facility. Point is, the founders knew that the school's academic worth and reputation was going to be generated by the performance of its graduates and the quality of its teachers. So they focused on the culture rather than the perks and it paid off. Atlanta law firms soon realized that they could hire excellent new attorneys from a local school.
Of course, at the outset the school was also working on a shoestring budget, so they couldn't afford much in the way of fancy anyhow. But they put the money into what mattered most.
*What really convinced me to go to Georgia State was that it offered a part-time program and night classes, even though I intended to go full time. Median student age was twenty-eight. At UGA Law it was twenty-two or three. I was thirty. I didn't really want to move to Athens and find myself surrounded at school by a bunch of callow wet-eared youths freshly graduated from partying all the time. Oh and it was cheap - outside housing arrangements the basic tuition was four thousand whole dollars a year. Tuition for three years at State was cheaper than one year at, say, Emory Law, or Mercer down in Macon.
My father was a school principal for most of his life. I can close my eyes and hear him saying, almost word for word, the final sentence of your post, as for the first 20 years of my life, I heard it said about once a week.
It is about culture: the more that achievement is accepted and expected among students and their families, the better the school will be.