US College vs. US High School

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KestrelLowing
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US College vs. US High School

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:13 pm UTC

Sorry for starting another thread, but I just had this thought.

Most people are not happy with the current schooling situation for K-12 in the United States. Often it is pointed out that most other nations have much higher test scores than American students.

This seems to be at odds with the reputation of US colleges and universities being the best in the world. (Look at any top 100 list, and the majority of schools are from the US. This may be partly caused by the population, but I don't quite remember how to see if it is statistically significant.) So, what's up with that?

Also, if you can come up with a better subject title, please let me know.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby cv4 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:22 pm UTC

a lot of the people who make these universities look good don't need top notch high school education to succeed. They are the very intelligent ones. It is those that struggle and have little educational future after high school that need to get more out of it.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby meatyochre » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:34 pm UTC

I think there's too large a gap between typical public schools (which are good enough for maybe 85-90% of kids) and schools that will properly nurture a gifted student. A gifted child who happens to be born into a low-income family that can't afford private school will spend their education constantly bored, outclassing their peers, possibly unable to pay attention in class, and not able to do homework because they are bored. These are also kids who slip through the cracks and don't get much out of their education, and we also need to care about them.

My point was that intelligent kids are also suffering in our current school system, not just unintelligent ones.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby nash1429 » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:38 pm UTC

I don't think the issue of intelligent people being bored in public school is limited to poor families. In many cases private schools are not much better, or if they are they often cost more than private college. Many of my relatives attended a particular boarding school, which I considered. Even if the tuition hadn't been almost $40,000 a year plus additional expenses (books, computer, sports equipment, etc.) the academics were nothing particularly impressive. The issue that is more prevalent further down the socio-economic ladder is the lack of availability or encouragement to pursue extracurricular learning.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby meatyochre » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:42 pm UTC

nash1429 wrote:I don't think the issue of intelligent people being bored in public school is limited to poor families. In many cases private schools are not much better, or if they are they often cost more than private college. Many of my relatives attended a particular boarding school, which I considered. Even if the tuition hadn't been almost $40,000 a year plus additional expenses (books, computer, sports equipment, etc.) the academics were nothing particularly impressive. The issue that is more prevalent further down the socio-economic ladder is the lack of availability or encouragement to pursue extracurricular learning.

Was it a secular boarding school or a religious one? I am determined to send my children to a secular boarding school (or prep school, same difference I think) with a good academic reputation. I don't think religious private schools necessarily provide a better education than public ones, though there are instances where they are superior.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby achan1058 » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:08 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:This seems to be at odds with the reputation of US colleges and universities being the best in the world. (Look at any top 100 list, and the majority of schools are from the US. This may be partly caused by the population, but I don't quite remember how to see if it is statistically significant.) So, what's up with that?
Self-fulfilling prophecy? Because the top US universities are better, so students around the world flock to those universities, which makes the competition higher, which in turn makes the university better. Also, from what I have heard, they have better funding to attract better professors and researchers. (I don't recall where I hear this, but I recall hearing something about Harvard pays 4x as Oxford or something.)

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby mmmcannibalism » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:57 am UTC

I think the real question is how good the average US college is compared to the average college outside the US. Of course, the large population will lead to a large amount of extremely intelligent students; hence, you end up with a large amount of very good schools.

Beyond that, the extremely rapid technological advancement in the United States probably led to the need for really good Science/Technology schools.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:35 am UTC

KestrelLowing wrote:So, what's up with that?
Colleges are in a competitive market, while high schools are a government-run near-monopoly. For college professors, getting tenure is a difficult and lengthy process; for high school teachers, you pretty much just have to join the union.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby nash1429 » Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:45 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:Was it a secular boarding school or a religious one? I am determined to send my children to a secular boarding school (or prep school, same difference I think) with a good academic reputation. I don't think religious private schools necessarily provide a better education than public ones, though there are instances where they are superior.


Technically it's a Quaker school but nobody really cares. You have to attend meeting (Quaker services) twice a week and some of the classes have a bit of a Quaker bias but not many of the faculty or students are Quakers. However, it is my understanding from talking to teachers at secular prep schools, and from my own experience at a secular private elementary school, that the big difference is the student body, not the quality of the education.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby meatyochre » Fri Jun 18, 2010 10:59 pm UTC

allstarcars wrote:Everything that I have read says that the high schools in the US lag the rest of the world in nearly every department, however the colleges in the US outperform the rest of the world. This dichotomy seems strange to me. If the highschool students are so poor, how do they suddenly become the best in the world? What does everyone think?

A bi-nodal distribution of grades, wherein only the first node attends college.

There are also some spectacularly bad community (or online) colleges in the US. But since the country is so large, the reputations of top universities overshadow the bad reputations of others.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby nash1429 » Sat Jun 19, 2010 5:00 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:
KestrelLowing wrote:So, what's up with that?
Colleges are in a competitive market, while high schools are a government-run near-monopoly. For college professors, getting tenure is a difficult and lengthy process; for high school teachers, you pretty much just have to join the union.


chicagoebiz wrote:I saw an above comment about tenure and he is exactly correct. This is the greatest problem. Government run school teachers have it easy while college professors have to work hard. What comes to mind is the shooting in an Alabama (I think ?) University where the professor started shooting everybody because she was denied tenure. It can be really stressful :cry:


Also, while college professors are selected from a group that has been thinned out repeatedly until only the best earn doctorate degrees and get jobs at universities. School teachers, however, are taken from the bottom 10% of college graduates in the country (although there are some good ones). Other countries often take their teachers from the top 10% of college graduates.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby oxy » Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:41 pm UTC

nash1429 wrote:
Vaniver wrote:
KestrelLowing wrote:So, what's up with that?
Colleges are in a competitive market, while high schools are a government-run near-monopoly. For college professors, getting tenure is a difficult and lengthy process; for high school teachers, you pretty much just have to join the union.


chicagoebiz wrote:I saw an above comment about tenure and he is exactly correct. This is the greatest problem. Government run school teachers have it easy while college professors have to work hard. What comes to mind is the shooting in an Alabama (I think ?) University where the professor started shooting everybody because she was denied tenure. It can be really stressful :cry:


Also, while college professors are selected from a group that has been thinned out repeatedly until only the best earn doctorate degrees and get jobs at universities. School teachers, however, are taken from the bottom 10% of college graduates in the country (although there are some good ones). Other countries often take their teachers from the top 10% of college graduates.


I'm skeptical of that claim without seeing figures.

And I'm not sure using an example of a professor who snapped and shot up a school is a great example of how high school teachers have it too easy.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby nash1429 » Sun Jun 20, 2010 9:31 pm UTC

Verily, it's hearsay. However I am inclined to believe wholeheartedly the statistic for high school teachers in the U.S. having experienced that system not so long ago (5 days, to be exact). I'm not so sure about the other-countries'-teachers-being-in-the-top-10% thing.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby TiglathPileser3 » Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:11 pm UTC

Even without figures, its believable that high school teachers come from the bottom 10%. Being a high school teacher is neither prestigious nor well-paying. And its especially hard to attract people when high school isn't something people look back on with fondness (at least, the academics). And this is all confirmed by personal experience.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby Ivor Zozz » Wed Jun 23, 2010 4:20 pm UTC

Top colleges are able to apply filters so that they get mostly very good students. The U.S. has a large social underclass, which drags down the reputation of our public schools since they're obliged to accept everybody, while our colleges are not. I'd be interested to see the performance of our top 10% of public school students versus the top 10% of students in other countries. I suspect they wouldn't be that different. I think it's just that our average is dragged down by the relatively large number of people here who do terribly.

Also, we have an enormous amount of funds for hiring top professors and establishing state of the art programs.
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby nash1429 » Wed Jun 23, 2010 11:58 pm UTC

Continuing on that point, I think that our image of other countries' education systems relative to ours is due in part to the fact that they send only their brightest here. If every American in an Ivy League went overseas, we would look pretty smart, too.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:53 am UTC

Ivor Zozz wrote:Top colleges are able to apply filters so that they get mostly very good students. The U.S. has a large social underclass, which drags down the reputation of our public schools since they're obliged to accept everybody, while our colleges are not. I'd be interested to see the performance of our top 10% of public school students versus the top 10% of students in other countries. I suspect they wouldn't be that different. I think it's just that our average is dragged down by the relatively large number of people here who do terribly.

Also, we have an enormous amount of funds for hiring top professors and establishing state of the art programs.

I second a comparison between the top 10%s
meatyochre wrote:
nash1429 wrote:I don't think the issue of intelligent people being bored in public school is limited to poor families. In many cases private schools are not much better, or if they are they often cost more than private college. Many of my relatives attended a particular boarding school, which I considered. Even if the tuition hadn't been almost $40,000 a year plus additional expenses (books, computer, sports equipment, etc.) the academics were nothing particularly impressive. The issue that is more prevalent further down the socio-economic ladder is the lack of availability or encouragement to pursue extracurricular learning.

Was it a secular boarding school or a religious one? I am determined to send my children to a secular boarding school (or prep school, same difference I think) with a good academic reputation. I don't think religious private schools necessarily provide a better education than public ones, though there are instances where they are superior.

Where do you live? There may be some good public school nearby and you can save the private school tuition money for college tuition
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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby Korrente » Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:52 am UTC

meatyochre wrote:I think there's too large a gap between typical public schools (which are good enough for maybe 85-90% of kids) and schools that will properly nurture a gifted student. A gifted child who happens to be born into a low-income family that can't afford private school will spend their education constantly bored, outclassing their peers, possibly unable to pay attention in class, and not able to do homework because they are bored. These are also kids who slip through the cracks and don't get much out of their education, and we also need to care about them.

My point was that intelligent kids are also suffering in our current school system, not just unintelligent ones.


That's about how my school was. No Child Left Behind gets turned into No Child Allowed Ahead and you're actively prevented from going further in classes because other people can't. Our 'gifted and talented' program consisted of doing extra work, not interesting or challenging work, and thus a waste of our time.
I get to college and suddenly I'm doing what I want to do, in a challenging and meaningful honors program with people who really care about learning and teaching. I suddenly want to do everything I can to do well and stay ahead.
The schools shift from trying to equalize, and essentially catering only to the low end of the spectrum, to individualizing and catering to each person. But I suppose that's the difference $20k a year gets you.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby KestrelLowing » Fri Jul 02, 2010 12:20 pm UTC

Korrente wrote:That's about how my school was. No Child Left Behind gets turned into No Child Allowed Ahead and you're actively prevented from going further in classes because other people can't. Our 'gifted and talented' program consisted of doing extra work, not interesting or challenging work, and thus a waste of our time.
I get to college and suddenly I'm doing what I want to do, in a challenging and meaningful honors program with people who really care about learning and teaching. I suddenly want to do everything I can to do well and stay ahead.
The schools shift from trying to equalize, and essentially catering only to the low end of the spectrum, to individualizing and catering to each person. But I suppose that's the difference $20k a year gets you.


I think this is the major problem with the American school system as it stands right now. We commonly cater to the lowest common denominator. While I'm not saying we should abandon remedial or special needs classes, I do believe something more is needed.

In my school experience, there was little to no advanced classes in elementary and middle school. I was place in a TAG program in elementary, but we did no advance material, due to the fact there was no TAG program in middle school. Instead we focused on enrichment. That was great, and I had a more varied education because of it, but I think that if I had been allowed to learn a little more material and be a little more challenged, I'd be better off today.

In middle school there was nothing. I had to fight tooth and nail in order to be bumped up a grade in math, even though I had been doing a grade above math in elementary (my friend who happened to be half Japanese and was also advanced in math helped a lot with pushing - stereotypes FTW! Evidently pasty white girls can't be good at math).

High school had honors classes, and it was much better, but certainly not perfect.

I think the best thing to do would be to begin offering advanced classes in elementary, even in 1st grade. English (reading specifically) and math should be broken up that early, while things like science and social studies probably shouldn't. This allows kids to become used to all their peers, while moving at a pace that is right for them. Perhaps later in elementary (4th-5th grade) all subjects should be separated into levels, and those levels would not be dependent upon age. This would then continue throughout middle and high school. Kids would not be "tracked" - they would be allowed to move between levels, and be at different levels in different subjects.

This would allow students to excel more in school. This may mean the possibility of early graduation for many, but I think community colleges are the logical next step, provided it's a quality community college.

I also think this would serve to make the US colleges even better as more students would learn more before even entering their degree program. It would no longer just be that the smart kids are still smart and can do well at school; they would have more knowledge under their belt and would have been more challenged during K-12 education. This allows them to be even more successful at college, or at technical schools. (Yes, there should be options for trades and the like in high school - not everyone wants or needs to go to college) Right now, as many people have said, colleges seem to just be good because of naturally talented students. If the K-12 schooling helped to push students more, I think colleges would be exceptional.

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby vilidice » Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:44 pm UTC

chicagoebiz wrote:I saw an above comment about tenure and he is exactly correct. This is the greatest problem. Government run school teachers have it easy while college professors have to work hard. What comes to mind is the shooting in an Alabama (I think ?) University where the professor started shooting everybody because she was denied tenure. It can be really stressful :cry:


I was actually in the building when the shooting at UAH occurred,and there has been a lot of investigation into the reasons for the shooting; while the denial of tenure was a factor, the teacher in question was having several other problems, and the biggest issue was the way in which her research contracts were managed by the non-departmental administration (the nature of the way her research was handled cost her any chance of being in a business partnership developing bio-computing technologies, and several million in research grants and contracts). She also had a history of violence and similar reactions to other much less stressful stimuli, which were never reported to the public, or any record, until after the event.

To return to the topic: I think the biggest thing is indeed an over-focus on the top 100 schools, while ignoring the average, as well as another important distinction: most of the top schools have more foreign graduate students in the sciences than native citizens. This has been a particular problem at my school, as the CS, Engineering, and most other science areas, do mostly government contracts requiring security clearance, and have to turn down contracts because the primary accepted applicants (to the academic programs) are not citizens, and cannot get clearance.

As a result of this, many of the best students in other countries end up coming to the US for school (as mentioned before this is the self-fulfilling prophecy), but it also means that many valuable spots in those programs (especially at the graduate level where they may only accept 20-80 students per year, total) are filled by non-citizens which are more qualified (as foreign high schools generally produce better university applicants than US high schools, per capita) leaving many US citizens with similar relative high school performance to go to lower tier schools. (I have nothing against foreign students going to US schools, in fact I think the added competition is generally good for the educational system, but the fact out high schools are worse on average means that US high school students are often less likely to get into a top school for undergrad, which makes it harder to get into a top graduate program etc.).

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Re: US College vs. US High School

Postby Spen » Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:27 pm UTC

vilidice wrote:


As a result of this, many of the best students in other countries end up coming to the US for school (as mentioned before this is the self-fulfilling prophecy), but it also means that many valuable spots in those programs (especially at the graduate level where they may only accept 20-80 students per year, total) are filled by non-citizens which are more qualified (as foreign high schools generally produce better university applicants than US high schools, per capita) leaving many US citizens with similar relative high school performance to go to lower tier schools. (I have nothing against foreign students going to US schools, in fact I think the added competition is generally good for the educational system, but the fact out high schools are worse on average means that US high school students are often less likely to get into a top school for undergrad, which makes it harder to get into a top graduate program etc.).

Possibly just impose a cap of 25% of places on the course going to foreigners (note, in this case I am a foreigner), from the UK applicant's view there are several factors:
Expensive as hell
More complicated application process
Separation from good friends (I know it's advised to not mix too much with friends from school but there are some who help you deal with stuff in a way new friends can't).
Difference in cultures
Can't get onto schemes like DTUS or IET scholarships (IDK if the US has equivalent, although if DARPA doesn't support students through Uni to make sure it gets the cream of the crop I'd be surprised).
Things you can't get in the UK: Taste of american culture
Universal recognition of your uni (this is with regards sciences with MIT and Harvard, I'd say the perception is that Oxbridge has a more prestigious repuation for the arts)
Forces you to see and explore somewhere you may not have had the opportunity too.


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