Improving the educational system

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby 1hitcombo » Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:45 am UTC

To bring things back on topic...

To all those who are for privatization: I still don't see a reason why that wouldn't just make education even more stratified. And if that isn't a problem, why?

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:07 am UTC

1hitcombo wrote:To bring things back on topic...

To all those who are for privatization: I still don't see a reason why that wouldn't just make education even more stratified. And if that isn't a problem, why?


Privatization is based on the idea that market forces would provide a more dynamic environment then a government bureaucracy.

As I see it, School Vouchers would be the best way to achieve this. It would allow parents to pay for the school of their choice while not placing an undue financial burden on lower/middle class.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby ++$_ » Thu Mar 13, 2008 2:19 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:Privatization is based on the idea that market forces would provide a more dynamic environment then a government bureaucracy.

As I see it, School Vouchers would be the best way to achieve this. It would allow parents to pay for the school of their choice while not placing an undue financial burden on lower/middle class.
How would this work? If you give vouchers for a specific dollar amount, then you're essentially in the same situation as you were before, except now the formerly public schools are run by corporations. The situation will actually be worse, because the best now-public schools will suddenly become exclusive private schools, leaving even less for the lower/middle class.

Alternatively, if you give vouchers that are not in a particular dollar amount, but that simply guarantee one year of education each, then there is not really any competitive pressure to keep costs down.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Thu Mar 13, 2008 3:09 am UTC

++$_ wrote:How would this work? If you give vouchers for a specific dollar amount, then you're essentially in the same situation as you were before, except now the formerly public schools are run by corporations.


There is no reason for public schools to just close up shop, they just have to compete directly with private schools.

The situation will actually be worse, because the best now-public schools will suddenly become exclusive private schools, leaving even less for the lower/middle class.


Not necessarily. The exceptionally rich will continue to send their children to the same private schools that they already have. With the addition of vouchers to the system the private school market will rapidly increase in size, new schools can (will) be founded.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby eXS » Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:43 am UTC

I am convinced that teaching can only be done right through passion, never as a hunt for profit. The market is a cold tundra, no place to build schools in.

It is the same reason that a parents home cooked meal is better than your random pizza hut/mc donalds. It is made out of love for children, not love for greenbacks.

Does this sound weird?
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Malice » Thu Mar 13, 2008 8:27 am UTC

eXS wrote:I am convinced that teaching can only be done right through passion, never as a hunt for profit. The market is a cold tundra, no place to build schools in.

It is the same reason that a parents home cooked meal is better than your random pizza hut/mc donalds. It is made out of love for children, not love for greenbacks.
bur
Does this sound weird?


No, it's a fairly standard argument; there are detriments to using the profit motive. It doesn't work well for health insurance, for instance.

However, I think your misinterpreting. The reasons fast food doesn't compare to a home-cooked meal are that fast food has to be fast. That usually means fiddling with what's actually in them (a normal burger cooked on a grill takes longer than 30 seconds), preparing them ahead of time (usually by flash-freezing and then flash-frying), and standardizing everything. Fast food places sacrifice quality for speed and low prices. Your mother, however, can take half an hour or longer to make dinner, which means she can make things better.

However, in education we kind of have a different system. Your analogy isn't quite apt; the only people in the education system getting a real home-cooked, taught-with-love meal are those kids being homeschooled.
Everyone else is paying (through taxes) for public school, which is ill-funded (when you remove the bureaucratic dollars) and standardized to the lowest common denominator and the average learner.
The idea is that the market will come up with alternatives. Is your kid smarter than what he's being taught in public school? Put him in a tougher private school. Is he mentally challenged? Put him in a special school for that. Do you want a focus on science and math, or a focus on art and English? You can have it.

The apt analogy is that you can either have a home-cooked meal (and not every parent can cook well), or you can stick with the cafeteria food (what we have now), or you can go out and choose one of many different restaurants until you find what suits you.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Thu Mar 13, 2008 1:30 pm UTC

So what about people taking vouchers and adding money?

You'll notice that it is a pretty standard tactic to charge money in order to change the demographics of the consumers: ie, you charge money not in order to get better education, but rather to exclude the poor from your class room. This makes the institution "more exclusive". Then offer bursaries to the poor to allow a select few into the class.

This could quickly reduce "public" school to being a ghetto for those unable to pay the premium costs -- the status cost of the "high class" schools.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Garm » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:25 pm UTC

Agh! The misconceptions, they burn.... they burn!

First off, education and the educational system are not a panacea for the ills of society. Never have been, never will be. Here in America, Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann set up our public education system with the idea that it would create better democratic citizens. A good democracy requires an educated electorate and early schools reflected this. At one time the crush of immigration was so heavy that schools in New York resorted to teaching classes in hygiene. At some point in time, right around the industrialization of the U.S., our educational system was hijacked by business interests and turned from being an institution of better government to an institution of business. Ever since, education has been bandied about as a hot-button issue used for cheap political points. All the while the actual system is going into the shitter.

Business and the freemarket are also not a panacea for the ills of society. In fact they're kind of detrimental to our educational system. Vouchers don't work. First and foremost they turn schools into a for-profit venture, not a for-education venture. Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best. There is also the issue of space. If a school shows a marked upwards trend in their test scores and gains the reputation of being a good place to educate your children, more parents will try to use their vouchers to send their kids to that school. If more children apply to that school than there are spaces available then the school can cherry pick, changing vouchers from parent/children choice to school choice. Also because of the reputation of religious schools for offering a quality education, more children are sent to parochial schools using vouchers which diminishes the separation of church and state.

There are several things that can and need to be done with the school system. First is to restructure the teachers union. It's a dinosaur that unfairly protects bad teachers and blindly rewards seniority. Second is to retool the curriculum for just about everything. I'm not saying introduce "new math" and such but what's being taught and the way it's being taught often isn't relevant. Point three is our text books. Do we really need a text that fawningly venerates Christopher Columbus? What about our tracking systems? Are they really necessary? I was sort of appalled by someone's earlier suggestion to pysically separate the cool kids from the stupid kids. What's wrong with exposure to diversity?

I could continue but as a last quick note, I think that more money might help but a restructuring of the adminstrations that surround schools is really the fastest, surest way to get funds into the classroom. Like any overly-bureaucratic organization the money trickles down from the top. Educational literature is rife with stories of teachers having to bring their own paper and chalk to school. That's just dumb. Salaries/Schmalries. Yes they need to be higher but there are obviously other endemic issues that we need to address.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Thu Mar 13, 2008 6:04 pm UTC

Garm wrote:Business and the freemarket are also not a panacea for the ills of society. In fact they're kind of detrimental to our educational system. Vouchers don't work. First and foremost they turn schools into a for-profit venture, not a for-education venture.


They let people pick which school they send their children to.

And it lets a school arrange their education program in whatever way that will attract children.

A voucher driven school is no more "for profit" than a current school is "for beauocracy". They are both "for education", because the point is the people being educated.

Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best. There is also the issue of space. If a school shows a marked upwards trend in their test scores and gains the reputation of being a good place to educate your children, more parents will try to use their vouchers to send their kids to that school. If more children apply to that school than there are spaces available then the school can cherry pick, changing vouchers from parent/children choice to school choice.


Ayep, that school can cherry pick. And other schools can either try to duplicate what that school does, or go bankrupt as people choose to put their children in the best spot they can get their children into.

Also because of the reputation of religious schools for offering a quality education, more children are sent to parochial schools using vouchers which diminishes the separation of church and state.


No law regarding an estabilishment of religion -- the government is supposed to be religion-neutral, not anti-religion.

There are several things that can and need to be done with the school system. First is to restructure the teachers union. It's a dinosaur that unfairly protects bad teachers and blindly rewards seniority.


Restructure it how? The problem with central control isn't deciding "we should make things better", it is getting all of the implementation details right without a tight feedback loop of reward/punishment when you get things wrong.

Second is to retool the curriculum for just about everything. I'm not saying introduce "new math" and such but what's being taught and the way it's being taught often isn't relevant.


Do you plan on doing all of this at once, over the entire country? Drastic changes cause drastic consequences. The typical result of a massive sea-change in policy done all at once is disaster.

Point three is our text books. Do we really need a text that fawningly venerates Christopher Columbus?


Does fawningly venerate Christopher Columbus make the text uniformly bad? Should all texts crucify the Columbus?

What about our tracking systems? Are they really necessary? I was sort of appalled by someone's earlier suggestion to pysically separate the cool kids from the stupid kids. What's wrong with exposure to diversity?


You mean, tracking results of education, is it necessary? It depends -- you apparently want to distinguish good teachers from bad teachers. How shall this be done? Parents decide who to fire? Maybe the teachers themselves can get involved in a zero-sum game of getting each other fired and promoted? That always ends well.

Saying "we should make X better" is easy. The hart part is how to make X better -- the details.

That is the theory behind a market based approach. The consumers communicate, through their choice of school, what features they want from a school. We then let any individual decide on how to deliver what the consumers want, and risk their own capital on it.

Those who succeed in delivering what consumers want get rewarded (and usually emulated). Those who fail burn their own resources on their experiment.

It is a method of searching for a better solution to problems. It is an answer to "how do we solve problem X, the nitty gritty problems" -- we let someone else risk capital in an attempt to solve it in whatever way they see fit, and allow the market to decide if their solution passed muster or not.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby ++$_ » Thu Mar 13, 2008 7:48 pm UTC

Yakk wrote:
Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best. There is also the issue of space. If a school shows a marked upwards trend in their test scores and gains the reputation of being a good place to educate your children, more parents will try to use their vouchers to send their kids to that school. If more children apply to that school than there are spaces available then the school can cherry pick, changing vouchers from parent/children choice to school choice.


Ayep, that school can cherry pick. And other schools can either try to duplicate what that school does, or go bankrupt as people choose to put their children in the best spot they can get their children into.
Great idea. Let's change the system to one where schools go bankrupt from time to time. That's exactly how to ensure that our children get a great education.

Once again, I must emphasize: there are huge externalities involved in this "industry." A free market by itself will not be able to achieve an optimal level of output. Vouchers don't solve the problem, and ignore the fact that the education market is not perfectly competitive. In fact, in many areas, it's monopolistic. (If you live in Flournoy, California, you attend Flournoy Elementary School, because it's the only one. Actually, because of diseconomies of scale, that school would never survive under a pure-voucher program.) Where there are a lot of schools near each other (such as in urban areas), a voucher program has some effects, because it allows for choice (although see below). But in rural areas, no one would be affected at all by a voucher program.

Keep in mind that any choice allowed by a voucher program is somewhat illusory, because a school cannot provide an unlimited amount of education. Suppose that in a certain area we have school A, which is good, and school B, which is not-so-good. In the public school system, the students who attend A are chosen by location of residence (or, in some areas, on the basis of academic performance). In the voucher system, the students who attend A are chosen effectively randomly (the school decides who to admit), or worse, on the basis of who is likely to make the largest donations to the school in the future. We could achieve the same effect without vouchers by randomizing public school assignments, but this hasn't been done because it's not necessarily an improvement.

Garm wrote:Point three is our text books. Do we really need a text that fawningly venerates Christopher Columbus?
Do we really need that textbook at all? Honestly, elementary- and middle-school texts are not well-written, or helpful educationally. Why are we wasting taxpayer money on them? All they do is allow the teachers to ask the kids to read the textbook in lieu of teaching them anything.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Thu Mar 13, 2008 8:48 pm UTC

++$_ wrote:
Yakk wrote:
Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best. There is also the issue of space. If a school shows a marked upwards trend in their test scores and gains the reputation of being a good place to educate your children, more parents will try to use their vouchers to send their kids to that school. If more children apply to that school than there are spaces available then the school can cherry pick, changing vouchers from parent/children choice to school choice.


Ayep, that school can cherry pick. And other schools can either try to duplicate what that school does, or go bankrupt as people choose to put their children in the best spot they can get their children into.
Great idea. Let's change the system to one where schools go bankrupt from time to time. That's exactly how to ensure that our children get a great education.


Currently, when a school fails, do you know what happens? It limps along, and the students have no choice but to attend. So would you rather a school collapse because it sucks so bad, or would you rather a school suck really bad and keep teaching students for decades?

Once again, I must emphasize: there are huge externalities involved in this "industry." A free market by itself will not be able to achieve an optimal level of output. Vouchers don't solve the problem, ...


That fragment doesn't work. If there are externalities, you can work out their value, and use Vouchers to increase the output sufficiently? Or are you saying that you cannot convince someone to teach by paying them more money to teach?

It is true that markets cannot solve every problem.

... and ignore the fact that the education market is not perfectly competitive. In fact, in many areas, it's monopolistic. (If you live in Flournoy, California, you attend Flournoy Elementary School, because it's the only one. Actually, because of diseconomies of scale, that school would never survive under a pure-voucher program.)


How would it not survive? It might scale back or scale up. Is it fair to spend twice as much on one child as we do on another? If it is fair, then we can work that into the voucher price.

It is true that you can manage economies of scale, but I doubt that education is that strong of a natural monopoly, especially in reasonably high density population regions.

Where there are a lot of schools near each other (such as in urban areas), a voucher program has some effects, because it allows for choice (although see below). But in rural areas, no one would be affected at all by a voucher program.


First, there are far fewer rural people. If we find a solution that improves education for the 90% of the population who lives in urban areas, and has absolutely no effect in rural areas -- why the fuck not implement it?

Second, note that if the market based search strategy is used, this will lead to the rural schools being able to steal and adapt the improved strategies that the urban schools are using.

Third, small schools could pop up and grow at the expense of large schools if the large school is viewed as not good enough.

Keep in mind that any choice allowed by a voucher program is somewhat illusory, because a school cannot provide an unlimited amount of education. Suppose that in a certain area we have school A, which is good, and school B, which is not-so-good. In the public school system, the students who attend A are chosen by location of residence (or, in some areas, on the basis of academic performance). In the voucher system, the students who attend A are chosen effectively randomly (the school decides who to admit), or worse, on the basis of who is likely to make the largest donations to the school in the future. We could achieve the same effect without vouchers by randomizing public school assignments, but this hasn't been done because it's not necessarily an improvement.


Now let's add some flexibility. School A can expand itself for a cost. If it does so, with it's reputation, it will gain more students.

If the student age population falls, School B starts running short of students -- because everyone who can, wants to get into School A.

Next, a new small School, School C starts up. Every student it takes from A or B ... ends up being taken from B. The same is true of School D, E and F... small one-classroom schools, run by someone who got tired of the education that School B was producing.

School B either shapes up, goes under, or is bought out by someone who wants to reform it.

If we want to avoid the disruption that a bankrupt school could cause (lack of educational resources), we could insert clauses that basically reverts the school and the school's employees to the ministry of education if it approaches collapse (a variant of bankruptcy).

But this only causes problems when there are a handful of large schools, each of which with significant monopoly power, and the entire region is near enough saturation that it cannot suffer the loss of one of these schools.

Don't make it an unfettered free market -- those are only useful in special cases -- but throwing out the market with the bath water just because you need some market regulation isn't that justified.

So, problems:
1> Monopoly power
2> Collapse of key school

Possible solutions:
1> Limit the market power of a voucher school/organization by transportation time. Much like how media (is and/or should be) restricted

2> Require each school to keep ~10% flex and 10% "emergency" capacity. Have "bankrupt to government" clauses required in contracts, leases and the like, to allow the government to step in and limp the school along if the school cannot function.

These clauses are intended to catch border cases, if the local system gets sick.

And, to solve the rural/urban problem:
3> Allow each (county? region? etc?) to decide if it wants to go with Vouchers or Public Schooling.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby ++$_ » Fri Mar 14, 2008 12:03 am UTC

Yakk wrote:Currently, when a school fails, do you know what happens? It limps along, and the students have no choice but to attend. So would you rather a school collapse because it sucks so bad, or would you rather a school suck really bad and keep teaching students for decades?
Is it the school's fault, necessarily? Sometimes it is, but after even one decade there's probably been complete turnover of everything but possibly the students. The real problem in most failing schools is that there are fights going on in the halls, kids are selling drugs, and teachers are scared to go there. Closing the school and replacing it with a new one (say, one year later) will not solve the problem unless something truly dramatic is done, like turning the school into a prison-type environment. Which may be necessary, but it could be done in a public school as well.

...externalities...

The reason I say that vouchers wouldn't solve the problem is basically that they're working on the wrong end of the problem. My guess is that the typical parent, or student, can't distinguish between a good education and a bad education.
(This is supported by anecdotal evidence regarding the quality of private high schools in my area as compared to their perceived quality. I freely admit that it's only anecdotal, and that I am making the egotistical assertion that I can tell the difference between a good education and a bad education. But if I can't in fact do so, then that again supports the thesis.)
This means that there's no incentive for schools to give good educations (beyond what is necessary to stay accredited or to enable students to pass the baseline standardized tests). If you want to try and internalize the externality, the subsides have to be given to the schools based on the quality of education they provide, not based on how many students enroll. I'm not saying this is an impossible problem to resolve, and I don't think public education is the only way to go about it. (God knows we're not doing a good job of it now.) But with public education, the process is simple: set good standards, and you get good results, ceteris paribus. With private education, it's a bit more involved. Either you have to teach people which schools are good and which aren't, so that you can get vouchers to be successful, or you have to evaluate the schools and distribute money based on that. Either way, there has to be some investigation of each school to determine how good it is. This is a hard thing to do, and I'm not sure anyone knows how to do it.

As for your points 1, 2, 3:
1. I don't understand what you're saying here, sorry.
2. This is a good idea, and I agree that if we were to replace the public education system, it would be a must-implement. However, it might involve pouring an awful lot of government money into schools that were mismanaged by private companies, and the companies might feel less need to be solvent when they know the consequences for failure are lessened.
3. There's something to be said for this. I have one worry, though -- the education system is pretty ragged now, so I would hate to see what happens when it gets gutted so that only the isolated rural schools remain. [Yes, I realize this is rather vague. I'm just frightened of the idea of a bureaucracy that runs only the rural schools, while the urban/suburban schools do their own thing.]

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Fri Mar 14, 2008 1:16 am UTC

Garm wrote:Agh! The misconceptions, they burn.... they burn!

First off, education and the educational system are not a panacea for the ills of society.


Nobody has suggested that an improved education system will solve all of societies problems (or even suggested it). 'ell the education system is to complicated to be 'fixed' by vouchers, though vouchers are a step in the right direction (IMO).

[quote[
Never have been, never will be. Here in America, Thomas Jefferson and Horace Mann set up our public education system with the idea that it would create better democratic citizens. A good democracy requires an educated electorate and early schools reflected this. At one time the crush of immigration was so heavy that schools in New York resorted to teaching classes in hygiene. At some point in time, right around the industrialization of the U.S., our educational system was hijacked by business interests and turned from being an institution of better government to an institution of business. Ever since, education has been bandied about as a hot-button issue used for cheap political points. All the while the actual system is going into the shitter.
[/quote]

The educational needs of the American public have changed as we moved from an agrarian society to an industrial one (and now moving to a post-industrial one). It IS an important political issue (due to the amount of money involved, as well as the impact of education on society).

Business and the freemarket are also not a panacea for the ills of society.


Again this 'panacea' bit. Where has it been suggested that one even exists?

In fact they're kind of detrimental to our educational system. Vouchers don't work.


[citation needed]


Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best.


Vouchers are not part of the NCLB, they were removed before the final draft.

There is also the issue of space. If a school shows a marked upwards trend in their test scores and gains the reputation of being a good place to educate your children, more parents will try to use their vouchers to send their kids to that school. If more children apply to that school than there are spaces available then the school can cherry pick, changing vouchers from parent/children choice to school choice.


OR a successful school could use the influx of funding to expand (possibly opening satellite campuses) allowing for more students to enter. Also, IF a school is highly exclusive there is no reason that someone else cannot move in and open schools to accept those students rejected by the successful school.

Also because of the reputation of religious schools for offering a quality education, more children are sent to parochial schools using vouchers which diminishes the separation of church and state.


Since the government is not making an active decision to give money to those schools (rather it is the parents) I don't see how it is a violation of church and state.

There are several things that can and need to be done with the school system. First is to restructure the teachers union. It's a dinosaur that unfairly protects bad teachers and blindly rewards seniority.


that is very true, the teachers union is more about protecting teacher jobs (as it should be) then it is about what is best for the students. I'm not saying that it should be abolished, just that it's power needs to be decreased.

Point three is our text books. Do we really need a text that fawningly venerates Christopher Columbus?


I thought that modern text books painted CC as a genocidal maniac.

Quality textbooks are an important part of an educational system, requiring accuracy and impartiality.

What about our tracking systems? Are they really necessary? I was sort of appalled by someone's earlier suggestion to physically separate the cool kids from the stupid kids. What's wrong with exposure to diversity?


I believe that it was more about having specialized schools to meet the special needs of those with mental/physical handicaps.

I could continue but as a last quick note, I think that more money might help but a restructuring of the adminstrations that surround schools is really the fastest, surest way to get funds into the classroom. Like any overly-bureaucratic organization the money trickles down from the top. Educational literature is rife with stories of teachers having to bring their own paper and chalk to school. That's just dumb. Salaries/Schmalries. Yes they need to be higher but there are obviously other endemic issues that we need to address.


More money is clearly NOT the answer, we need to strip away much of the 'red tape'. We should also strip away the random social experiment elements and focus on imparting the scientific and technical background that will be needed in the modern world.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Fri Mar 14, 2008 2:51 am UTC

++$_ wrote:
Yakk wrote:Currently, when a school fails, do you know what happens? It limps along, and the students have no choice but to attend. So would you rather a school collapse because it sucks so bad, or would you rather a school suck really bad and keep teaching students for decades?
Is it the school's fault, necessarily? Sometimes it is, but after even one decade there's probably been complete turnover of everything but possibly the students. The real problem in most failing schools is that there are fights going on in the halls, kids are selling drugs, and teachers are scared to go there. Closing the school and replacing it with a new one (say, one year later) will not solve the problem unless something truly dramatic is done, like turning the school into a prison-type environment. Which may be necessary, but it could be done in a public school as well.


So give parents/students the freedom to try something different. Right now, they don't have that freedom of choice. Every school in the nation has the same standards, and all are run by a central beaurocracy.

The reason I say that vouchers wouldn't solve the problem is basically that they're working on the wrong end of the problem. My guess is that the typical parent, or student, can't distinguish between a good education and a bad education.
(This is supported by anecdotal evidence regarding the quality of private high schools in my area as compared to their perceived quality. I freely admit that it's only anecdotal, and that I am making the egotistical assertion that I can tell the difference between a good education and a bad education. But if I can't in fact do so, then that again supports the thesis.)


I'm willing to give parents the freedom to choose. If they choose a worse education, by your metrics, then so be it.

Have some standards -- but intend for them to require less than the full attention of the school on the problem. Leave room for schools to teach different things with their time.

This means that there's no incentive for schools to give good educations (beyond what is necessary to stay accredited or to enable students to pass the baseline standardized tests).


Right now, the government, run by the people, decides what is a good education and what isn't. Why would the government know better than the parents asto what is a good education for their child?

But with public education, the process is simple: set good standards, and you get good results, ceteris paribus.


Setting standards doesn't generate action. I hold that the hard part is implementing goals, not setting them. So much so that the goals we set are constrained to be those that are easy to implement and test for.

2. This is a good idea, and I agree that if we were to replace the public education system, it would be a must-implement. However, it might involve pouring an awful lot of government money into schools that were mismanaged by private companies, and the companies might feel less need to be solvent when they know the consequences for failure are lessened.


It just moves the point of bankruptcy. It does raise barriers to entry into the field, but... the idea that the zero point on the balance sheet is above "really zero" works in general, especially when those that rent to the school etc know about it.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Garm » Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:53 pm UTC

TheStranger wrote:
Again this 'panacea' bit. Where has it been suggested that one even exists?



Many people seem to think that the free market is a cure-all. It's not. I think that it's a poor solution for schools.

In fact they're kind of detrimental to our educational system. Vouchers don't work.


[citation needed]


No. I don't need to cite anything. I provided my own reasoning for why vouchers don't work. I plan on providing some more. Not every argument has to come weighted with the authority of an article. I am, myself, an informed opinion.

Since No Child Left Behind our educational progress is overwhelmingly measured by the banal, and ultimately useless, metric of standardized testing the school that produces the highest test scores would be considered the best.


Vouchers are not part of the NCLB, they were removed before the final draft.


Not my point here. The thing with NCLB is that it mandated all this testing. The standardized tests are basically garbage. They form a poor metric for measurement of intelligence or future success. Test-centric education isn't something that really informs or inspires a student. It's also a poor indicator of school performance. There are all sorts of problems associated with using average test scores to judge a school's performance. A school might offer a perfectly acceptable education but have the unfortunate circumstance to be in a town with a high population of migrant workers or agricultural business. If the kids have to be out in the fields the day the test is taken, that will reflect poorly on the school though it is no fault of the school or its dedicated faculty. Likewise, what if the school is in a part of a large city with a high immigrant population. People newly arrived aren't going to do so well on the test because of language difficulties thus dragging a school's reputation through the mud.

With a voucher system like those suggested here these schools would fail despite the fact that they offer a quality education. Parents would look at the raw numbers ranking the schools, decide that because the schools in question have low rankings they don't want their kids to go there.

Yakk, it seems that one of your assumptions about schools is that there is infinite choice. There really isn't. Schools can't just start up on a whim. There are zoning restrictions and other legal hoops to jump through. What this means is that if you've got a pool of 150 students in the area and three schools, Good School, Bad School and Mediocre School that can house 150 students between the three of them, you can bet good school will have 150 parents trying to voucher their kids to good school. At that point it's not about parental choice. The school's get to choose who attends. So Good School will pick the best students, Mediocre School the best of what's left and Bad School gets the rest. What we have now is a positive feed back loop.

As for the idea that a school, under a voucher system, won't be run as a for-profit business... What incentive do I as a citizen have to opening up a school? None. Well maybe the charitable goodness of my heart but for most people that doesn't cut it. Teaching and administrating pays precious little (tho' the latter is somewhat better than the former) and for the most part attracts idealists like myself. In order to attract the good teachers who can raise the standards by which the schools are judged the school must offer some sort of benefit. Teachers like coming here to Boulder because the community is well educated and it's beautiful. Teachers don't like going to Denver because like most big cities the population is very economically diverse and you can get stuck teaching at a shitty school. So in order to attract teachers to Denver a different pay scale or monetary incentives are used. Attracting these teachers is necessary for your school to not go bankrupt which would certainly be a bad thing for you fiscally. Hence, you're going to try to cut costs where you can so you can afford to pay the teachers well. Disregarding that even, what other motivation do you have for opening a non-parochial school? Because you think you could teach better? That's what homeschooling is for. Opening your own school merely because you think you can do it better is basically the same as coaching your kid's soccer team.

The comment that implementing change is harder than stating the need for it is oh so true. No, I'm not suggesting that we arbitrarly change the curriculum for everyone all at once in a hasty manner. I'm of the opinion that the way we teach things is somewhat flawed. We hear stories about how interesting, energetic and excited teachers break free of the bounds off the curriculum and it pays off in some way. Why not take a look at what's working and what's not? It's not even something that could be enacted on a national or federal level anyway. Curriculum is too regional for a federal solution to work anyway.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Fri Mar 14, 2008 7:35 pm UTC

Yakk, it seems that one of your assumptions about schools is that there is infinite choice. There really isn't. Schools can't just start up on a whim. There are zoning restrictions and other legal hoops to jump through. What this means is that if you've got a pool of 150 students in the area and three schools, Good School, Bad School and Mediocre School that can house 150 students between the three of them, you can bet good school will have 150 parents trying to voucher their kids to good school. At that point it's not about parental choice. The school's get to choose who attends. So Good School will pick the best students, Mediocre School the best of what's left and Bad School gets the rest. What we have now is a positive feed back loop.


Right now, the only way to set up a school and get public money doing it is to be set up by the local government.

You can also start up a private school, but then you need enough parents willing to throw away their public school funding and pay for private school on top of that.

So yes, what you describe is what might happen at the start. But then someone sets up a school better than Bad school with a capacity for 20 to 30 students -- heck, it could be a teacher who was tired of working for Bad school, running a classroom out of commercial real estate. Now that we have choice, the students and parents can choose a better option for their own education.

If the voucher system never encourages people to set up schools, then yes, the voucher system won't do anything important. Duh. The entire point of the voucher system is to encourage people to set up better schools than the current options.

As for the idea that a school, under a voucher system, won't be run as a for-profit business...


Of course running a successful school is supposed to generate a profit. We are talking about using the market, which uses messages of profit and loss to communicate messages between consumers and producers.

The comment that implementing change is harder than stating the need for it is oh so true. No, I'm not suggesting that we arbitrarly change the curriculum for everyone all at once in a hasty manner. I'm of the opinion that the way we teach things is somewhat flawed. We hear stories about how interesting, energetic and excited teachers break free of the bounds off the curriculum and it pays off in some way. Why not take a look at what's working and what's not? It's not even something that could be enacted on a national or federal level anyway. Curriculum is too regional for a federal solution to work anyway.


There is no incentive for a teacher to teach better, other than their own internal incentive. On a school level, a school that does a better job teaching ... gets no real benefits. A school that is crappy ... gets no punishment. There is plenty of incentive for a school to teach whatever the beaurocrats tell them to teach, and avoid offending anyone in any way. The beaurocracy is extremely removed from the actual teacher/student relationship, and is best served by periodic random shifts in policy that leave things much the same as they have always been, yet justify a promotion.

The only influence Parents can bring is either <A> get offended by something and start a media stink, or <B> bias their selection of political candidates by their professed opinions on education, hoping that the candidate will pick beaurocrats who pick policies which encourage schools to get teachers to educate their children better.

That B chain is really long, and full of slack.

In a theoretical voucher model, the Parent has the ability to punish or reward schools for providing the kind of education that they want their children to have. That punishment/reward comes in the flavor of a vote (ie, putting your child in school at a particular school), but it has a direct impact on the controllers of a given school.

The goal is to make the feedback cycle shorter. And place the control closer to the hands of those directly effected by the quality of education: the parents and students.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:30 pm UTC

Personally, I'm horrified by the prospect of private institutions with control over learning, especially if rampant. It just screams "McSchooling" to me, especially since (as I noted earlier) ours is a culture which gives education little more than lip service among much of its' populace (not-so-coincidentally, the part of the populace which most needs it).

I imagine an example would be in order. Okay, the key thing to remember is that a competition-based school system is not competing on the basis of which teaches their kids better - they're competing on the basis on who impresses the parents better.

So money is put into things that look good, like fancy computer equipment and big gymnasiums, parent-teacher days are funded to encourage parents to go look at all the shiny things and ooh and aah. New "standards" are concieved with more and more inflated-looking results.

What do the kids learn, you ask? Who cares. The less money is spent per-student, the better the profit, and only the kids who least need to benefit from this system have parents who care.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:41 pm UTC

Garm wrote:Not my point here. The thing with NCLB is that it mandated all this testing. The standardized tests are basically garbage. They form a poor metric for measurement of intelligence or future success. Test-centric education isn't something that really informs or inspires a student. It's also a poor indicator of school performance. There are all sorts of problems associated with using average test scores to judge a school's performance.


There I will agree with you. I've seen first hand (during my time as a substitute teacher) how corrosive standardized testing can be.

A school might offer a perfectly acceptable education but have the unfortunate circumstance to be in a town with a high population of migrant workers or agricultural business. If the kids have to be out in the fields the day the test is taken, that will reflect poorly on the school though it is no fault of the school or its dedicated faculty. Likewise, what if the school is in a part of a large city with a high immigrant population. People newly arrived aren't going to do so well on the test because of language difficulties thus dragging a school's reputation through the mud.


the question then becomes "by what metric can a school's effectiveness be determined"


Yakk, it seems that one of your assumptions about schools is that there is infinite choice. There really isn't. Schools can't just start up on a whim. There are zoning restrictions and other legal hoops to jump through. What this means is that if you've got a pool of 150 students in the area and three schools, Good School, Bad School and Mediocre School that can house 150 students between the three of them, you can bet good school will have 150 parents trying to voucher their kids to good school. At that point it's not about parental choice. The school's get to choose who attends. So Good School will pick the best students, Mediocre School the best of what's left and Bad School gets the rest. What we have now is a positive feed back loop.


OR good school will see the potential income from the students at mediocre and bad schools and expand. Mediocre school can see the techniques used by Good school and mimic them to bring in students from bad school. Bad school and quietly rot away... or be bought out and improved by another company.

What incentive do I as a citizen have to opening up a school? None.


An interest in education. believing that there is profit to be made in opening a new school


The comment that implementing change is harder than stating the need for it is oh so true. No, I'm not suggesting that we arbitrarily change the curriculum for everyone all at once in a hasty manner. I'm of the opinion that the way we teach things is somewhat flawed. We hear stories about how interesting, energetic and excited teachers break free of the bounds off the curriculum and it pays off in some way. Why not take a look at what's working and what's not? It's not even something that could be enacted on a national or federal level anyway. Curriculum is too regional for a federal solution to work anyway.


Again the question of 'what metric' is to be used to judge a school (or teacher within a school). By allowing market forces into the mix we open entirely new avenues for education, and a new way for them to be 'tested'

No, its not 'the solution' but it is part of the solution.

Indon wrote:Personally, I'm horrified by the prospect of private institutions with control over learning, especially if rampant. It just screams "McSchooling" to me, especially since (as I noted earlier) ours is a culture which gives education little more than lip service among much of its' populace (not-so-coincidentally, the part of the populace which most needs it).


Modern schooling is already at the "McSchooling" stage. And I'd wager that education gets 'little more the lip service' BECAUSE parents have little influence over education (and not the other way around).

I imagine an example would be in order. Okay, the key thing to remember is that a competition-based school system is not competing on the basis of which teaches their kids better - they're competing on the basis on who impresses the parents better.

So money is put into things that look good, like fancy computer equipment and big gymnasiums, parent-teacher days are funded to encourage parents to go look at all the shiny things and ooh and aah. New "standards" are concieved with more and more inflated-looking results.


schools already do that to some extent, since they are largely paid for by local taxes. Schools 'put their best foot forward' showing parents fancy gadgets to get more funding in the next budget.

What do the kids learn, you ask? Who cares. The less money is spent per-student, the better the profit, and only the kids who least need to benefit from this system have parents who care.


'less cost = more profit' is a very short sighted way to run a business (cost of unit production vs. sale cost). Higher quality can also mean greater profit (number of units sold vs. cost of production).
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Sat Mar 15, 2008 12:37 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:Modern schooling is already at the "McSchooling" stage. And I'd wager that education gets 'little more the lip service' BECAUSE parents have little influence over education (and not the other way around).

If education were cared about more in this society, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to erode for decades into the system that exists today - people would have cared.

TheStranger wrote:schools already do that to some extent, since they are largely paid for by local taxes. Schools 'put their best foot forward' showing parents fancy gadgets to get more funding in the next budget.

Yeah - so at best, vouchers don't change anything. At worst, schools which do educate kids but don't doll up their results lose business to ones that do and as a result things get worse.

TheStranger wrote:'less cost = more profit' is a very short sighted way to run a business (cost of unit production vs. sale cost). Higher quality can also mean greater profit (number of units sold vs. cost of production).


It's not at all shortsighted in any industry in which the consumers don't particularly care about, or don't know how to accurately measure, quality.

And not only does our culture not care much about education, but quality is very difficult to measure for it - the service is doubly damned in the market.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:10 am UTC

Indon wrote:If education were cared about more in this society, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to erode for decades into the system that exists today - people would have cared.


If people had more control over their education choices then they would have a greater reason to care about it.


Yeah - so at best, vouchers don't change anything. At worst, schools which do educate kids but don't doll up their results lose business to ones that do and as a result things get worse.


Right now a child is captive to what ever school district he happens to be in. all a school needs to do is 'doll up'. under a more competitive system a school that just prettied up would have to compete against schools pursuing real change.


It's not at all shortsighted in any industry in which the consumers don't particularly care about, or don't know how to accurately measure, quality.


As stated above, with greater control will come greater interest in euducation.

And not only does our culture not care much about education, but quality is very difficult to measure for it - the service is doubly damned in the market.


Difficult but not impossible. I'd see a combination of standard testing, formal reviews, and end result analysis would provide a good indication a schools progress / student support
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:58 am UTC

Indon wrote:If education were cared about more in this society, there wouldn't have been the opportunity to erode for decades into the system that exists today - people would have cared.


People do care about education. You see people picking where they live based on tax bases in order to be able to pick where their kids go to school. This isn't hogwash -- it is almost SOP in the USA to aim for a "good school district".

Barring sending your kids to private school (which means you get to throw away government subsidies and pay for it out of pocket), and the home environment, that is the main source of control a parent has.

The actual curriculum? The parents have very little control over it. They can bias their voting decisions to elect politicians, who can then appoint beaurocrats, who can then attempt change in the education plan, which is then filtered through the beaurocracy down to the administrators of the schools, who then impose the rules on the teachers, who then deliver it.

Each level reduces the power of any attempt at influencing the curriculum.

In comparison, with school vouchers: from the schools that are offering programs, you pick a school that produces closest to what you want. A much much shorter feedback loop. Influencing something when your actions are very very removed from it is hard.

By your argument, anything that isn't perfect is something people don't care about, and giving people control over any part of their lives will just result in them messing it up. After all, if it couldn't be solved using collectivist strategies, individualists strategies couldn't possibly solve it!

Except, yes, they can possibly solve it.

I'm not proposing that we try this experiment on an entire nation at once. Start off small, with a single state, and lots of controls and baffles.

Yeah - so at best, vouchers don't change anything. At worst, schools which do educate kids but don't doll up their results lose business to ones that do and as a result things get worse.


Or maybe, just maybe, parents will be more capable of picking which school is best for their children than beaurocrats in the state capitol? Maybe the parents will care more?

It might not work. But I think it should be tried.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby DougP » Sun Mar 16, 2008 5:30 am UTC

Im not going to quote anything in particular, im just going to comment on some of the general topics being discussed in this thread.

1) School Vouchers/Privatization of schools - I think this is a bad idea. If you make schools into private entities they will be good at one thing: making money. I have no doubt they will do a good job at that, but private companies have proven that they are good at making money, and not necessarily good at doing what is best for most people (and in this case those people are supposedly receiving and education. The goal needs to be educating, not making money, and if you privatize, the goal will be making money. Period.

2) Speaking of goals, I think people need to step back and look at the public education system as it stands. Essentially right now, we have a system that is designed to produce people who learn just enough to be useful members of the working class, and not critical thinkers, and certainly not highly educated individuals. This is a problem inherent with the current goals of the system. This is not to suggest some giant conspiracy theory in which every teacher is a member. However, it is to suggest that the current goal of high schools is not to produce a highly educated or critically thinking populace, and to provide public day-care for children until they are 18. The problem here is not a well intentioned system that is too bureaucratic to work, the problem is that education, in the manner that most people think it should exist is really not the goal of the system. Need proof? Math - Its taught decently, but you usually aren't taught WHY, just how. Science - Same. English - The focus tends to be on writing, how to do a business letter, how to write and essay, rather than learning how to think critically about the written word, and analyze literature. History - Basically just U.S. Propaganda until you get to the college level.

You do get anomalous teachers every so often who are particularly good and try their best. But most teach for an exam, finish up the exam, and move on to the next subject. No room for discussion, no room for dissent, and certainly no room for learning critical thought.

The fact of the matter is, education won't improve until their is a major reconsidering of what we want the goals to be, and that isn't going to happen through the current political system, as any candidate who would suggest such a radical change, would likely be voted out, just because people are so afraid of meaningful change and uncertainty.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:41 pm UTC

DougP wrote:1) School Vouchers/Privatization of schools - I think this is a bad idea. If you make schools into private entities they will be good at one thing: making money. I have no doubt they will do a good job at that, but private companies have proven that they are good at making money, and not necessarily good at doing what is best for most people (and in this case those people are supposedly receiving and education. The goal needs to be educating, not making money, and if you privatize, the goal will be making money. Period.


I'm not sure why 'making money' is bad... to make money a private school would have to be 'good' at what it does (good at schooling).
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Teshi » Sun Mar 16, 2008 4:59 pm UTC

Good topic.

I should start by saying that I have always attended the public system, first in Essex, England and then in Ontario, Canada, unless you count nursery school.

Schools Themselves: What, Where, Who

First of all, I do believe that schooling is best when dominated by a public system. This does not mean that I believe private schools should be eliminated. Other school systems not only provide alternative choices to those who can afford it, but also introduce different methods of teaching into the consciousness.

I oppose total private education because it will not only rank children by the education they can afford but more importantly the society with which the children (I'm going to use "children" to mean "pre/nursery-school/elementary and high/secondary school/college students") will mix. In my opinion, limiting children's access to people only of their same socio-economic rank limits their experience in a way that I think would be detrimental to both children and society. I am aware this occurs in the public system simply by catchment area (meaning, the area in which children can attend a certain school).

(Ideally, communities should be mixed to at least a certain extent. This has been the case in the communities I have attended school in.)

I believe that schooling-by-catchment area is deeply flawed but ultimately most successful way of assigning children to schools. I already mentioned the problem with grouping socio-economic levels; however, I think the school should be part of the community. If possible, elementary students should be within walking distance of their school. Parents should be able to see the school their children attend, and it should hold events to which parents are, if possible, invited.

First, the community needs to support the schools...


I think if parents are close to the schools they support, they will be more likely to understand the need for funding. It also eliminates the need for extensive busing/driving.

As a complication to the above, I think that if parents wish to make the choice, there should be ways of slightly alternate schooling. For instance, although I always attended in my catchment area, my younger sister attended a Middle French Immersion (Grade 4+) school outside of the area. It's not outside of the public system, and the differences were minimal, but it provides a slightly different type of schooling.

General Schooling: What, Why

For the following four paragraphs, the ones mentioned before count, but to a lesser extent to make way for the new mandate. I always believe that school should be enjoyable, so I have not said this all the way through.

Overall, I believe the mandate of a preschool (here I include up to Senior Kindergarten which in Canada is age 5) should be to introduce math, art (all kinds), games, activity, communication and above all reading to the children. Children should be able to read simple "texts" by the time they are 5. (More on that later)

Overall, I believe the mandate of an elementary school (ages 6-12 in Canada + two years middle school) should be to teach children to love learning. As ridiculous and we-are-the-world as that sounds, as long as children learn to read well, write well and understand math, I do not think the rest is that important. Topics should interest the teacher and the class, should be age appropriate but not childish, and should hopefully include aspects of the "three Rs".

Overall, I believe the mandate of a Middle School should be to prepare students for High School. They should do their first formal study of a book, of a historical and scientific subject, math should become more formal. They should be assigned regular homework (note there is no mention of homework yet. (More on that later). Middle school should be a transition period not only for High School but also for adult life. I believe that during this time school trips should be the most active. (More on school trips later).

Overall, I believe the mandate of a High School should be to teach formally without alienating their students. They should provide tuition in all basic subjects, including math, English, science, computer science, geography, history, government and the arts. All these subjects should encourage research skills. Homework should be assigned at the teachers discretion but regularly. Students should be encouraged to volunteer in the community. Personally, I believe the Ontario High School system covers many of these and does a decent job in preparing students.

Generally, I believe that other than the basics, elementary school should be a colourful, interesting experience which gradually mellows into high school after students know how to approach knowledge as something that is colourful, not something that is formal.

Specifics of Schooling: What, How Much, Why

Reading - I think good reading and writing is crucial and should come first. Reading, not just letters and phonics, should be taught in nursery and pre-school. Students should enter grade one being able to read competently. Most children 3-5 are fully capable of this, and it provides 2 or 3 years in which reading can be taught completely, rather than any kind of laggy system in which children should progress from ABC to reading in a year.

Reading should then be encouraged through the consumption of any type of reading material- comics, magazines, books- throughout elementary school, preferably in a casual manner. No formal written discussion of books should occur until grade 3. Books should not be associated with laborious relation of the plot. It will be clear in casual vocal discussion if kids don't understand. Parents should be encouraged to read to and with their kids (see also homework).

Homework - When I attended elementary school, I had almost no homework. My younger sisters had/have a steadily increasing amount of work (from kindergarten!) that essentially amounted to busywork. The problem with this is that it bores the socks off the child and the parent who inevitably has to be involved at such an early age. Instead of formal work, parents should be encouraged to read with/to their children, get them to do light easy house work, 'cook', play with friends, go to the library/museum etc. A child learns math when he or she has to pick the right weights for the scales for the cookie-making. Homework should not become formal until grade four or five at which point it should be minimal. It should not be regular until Middle School, with probably an ease-in period in the pre-Middle School year. At this point, children should be capable- if they have the will- to do homework themselves.

School Trips - Sadly, this era of lawsuits and paperwork has turned school trips into very difficult undertakings for teachers. Undertakings that are so difficult that they would rather stay in the classroom. I think this is tragic. School Trips should be an understood, regular part of school especially in the elementary and middle school age groups. They should involve things as simple as a trip to the field or a forest and the library, and trips to museums. Ideally, they should not be the whole school but individual classrooms or pairs of classrooms going. It is crucial in my opinion, to learning about learning to allow children to explore, on a regular basis, various institutions/activities as a class. This is especially true of the Middle School 12-14 age in which children are becoming teenagers and thus adults. Trips to vocational places, such as hospitals or restaurants or universities should be included.

Mixing of Ages - Just as I believe that socio-economic groups should be mixed, I believe that children should have opportunities to work together. This should go between ages 6-14, and 13-17/18. The younger age group would involve casual tutoring, reading, simple help with math, simple help with games etc. The older should involve working together on projects, maybe for a couple of days a semester.

Not the Three Rs - As I mentioned before, I believe that the three Rs, although it seems archaic, should be the biggest focus. However, this doesn't mean at all that I don't think all the other subjects (history, science, technology, arts etc.) should be neglected. In fact, totally the opposite. If at all possible, the three Rs should come up in these subjects (which is really easy when it comes to reading and writing, more complicated with math, but simple math is pretty easy to include everywhere). Projects, trips, experiments, investigation should all be included. For instance: How do we read time? How do different kinds of clocks work (old clocks, new clocks, watches)? When were clocks invented? How else can we measure time (e.g. the sun)? How do we use time in math?

Sports and Games - I think these are crucial to school. However, one thing that bothers me about sports is the emphasis on real, formal sports, especially at sports days. When I was at school in England, the sports day not only included running from point a to point b but also such hilarious exploits as the Obstacle Course, the Egg and Spoon Race, the Sack Race, The Slow Bicycle Race and the Father's Race. This meant that even the non-athletic could participate with a hope of winning. My brother, formally totally uncoordinated (he grew into himself as an adult) won the Sack Race by running in the sack, my brother's friend plump and unathletic, won the egg and spoon race with his smooth walk. I believe that this kind of unserious, informal way of celebrating skill and activity is better than total emphasis on formal atheleticism which only a few select people can participate in. By Middle School, the formally non-athletic are totally alienated from activity.

School trips should if possible include bicycling, walking, swimming, dance etc. It is activity and not sports that should be emphasized.

In Conclusion

You'll note I did not mention standardized testing. I do not think it is the devil, if used in very careful moderation, but I do not think that it really solves problems, only complicates them. Standardized testing is exceptionally boring. I do believe that standards should be kept and maintained and that it should be up to the Principal of the school to ensure this. High schools are much easier to administer standardized tests in math and science for example.

I also did not mention Enriched classes. I believe that, if handled well, most classes should not require Enriched options in order to keep speedier kids entertained. I do believe that in High School, various levels of teaching at the upper grades is actually a boon and should be always offered.

I believe that education's role is first to give children the tools to learn, which includes actually liking learning. Whatever kids like, they can realise that that is what is most important. Whatever they end up doing, they should ideally graduate not looking back on school as horrible torture but as something that was at least somewhat fun and did in some way contribute to the career they ended up choosing. This does not mean that a mechanic learnt about cars, but that a mechanic learnt about engines at some point, and he or she remembers learning about them fondly.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby tylerwylie » Sun Mar 16, 2008 11:09 pm UTC

Get the federal government out of it. Get rid of the teachers unions, and get just teach. I've met too many teachers and had too many teachers that included their own political agenda in the coursework. Getting the federal government out of the education system should help as well. Too many tests determining which school gets this amount of money.

Less government involvement in general as the government is pretty much just failing more and more for us. This can't happen overnight though, since if we cut all government funding to schools right now, things would only get worse.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby coppro » Mon Mar 17, 2008 3:39 am UTC

I spent five years in a private school, before moving to the public system in a gifted education program. My younger brothers each spent 4 years at that school, before they moved to another private school. One of them left for a third private school this year.

Based on my personal experiences, and what I've heard from my brothers, the cost of the schooling has nothing to do with the quality. Sure, the private schools generally have nicer facilities, and they don't have to wade through the bureaucracy, but that seems to have no relationship whatsoever with how you learn. The only thing I've found that really really counts is how much time the teacher is willing to spend on any individual student as time goes on. Teachers who are accommodating and try to work around the students' problems tend to be the most effective. What's more, there's plenty in the public system, because they teach for the love of teaching, not because they get money.

That's the key point. My personal ideal education system would be a bunch of indepedent, publicly-funded schools. More money should be sent to them so that teachers get more money, but there still needs to be a "bar of enjoyability" for people entering the profession - you can't teach if you don't enjoy teaching. The bureaucracy present in the board of education should be eliminated, but there should definitely be a teacher's union, to ensure that the schools are always staffed, and to ensure that only the teachers capable of the jobs take on administrative roles.

Personally, the bureaucracy is the one thing that must go. In the last few years, my board's bureaucracy has increased a lot. It's now nearly impossible for a teacher to get a field trip these days, and trips outside the country are banned outright due to an accident that occurred on one trip to the States (as if a skiing trip is any less dangerous). And the computer systems are awful - they have so many regulations on proper use of computers that they actually can't enforce them. The board is so very bureaucratic that it gets in the way of education, without actually doing anything.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby eXS » Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:44 am UTC

Malice wrote:
eXS wrote:I am convinced that teaching can only be done right through passion, never as a hunt for profit. The market is a cold tundra, no place to build schools in.

It is the same reason that a parents home cooked meal is better than your random pizza hut/mc donalds. It is made out of love for children, not love for greenbacks.
bur
Does this sound weird?

However, I think your misinterpreting. The reasons fast food doesn't compare to a home-cooked meal are that fast food has to be fast. That usually means fiddling with what's actually in them (a normal burger cooked on a grill takes longer than 30 seconds), preparing them ahead of time (usually by flash-freezing and then flash-frying), and standardizing everything. Fast food places sacrifice quality for speed and low prices. Your mother, however, can take half an hour or longer to make dinner, which means she can make things better.

No thats what i meant. Exactly. Stuff is being sacrificed because there is money to be made.

However, in education we kind of have a different system. Your analogy isn't quite apt; the only people in the education system getting a real home-cooked, taught-with-love meal are those kids being homeschooled.
Everyone else is paying (through taxes) for public school, which is ill-funded (when you remove the bureaucratic dollars) and standardized to the lowest common denominator and the average learner.
The idea is that the market will come up with alternatives. Is your kid smarter than what he's being taught in public school? Put him in a tougher private school. Is he mentally challenged? Put him in a special school for that. Do you want a focus on science and math, or a focus on art and English? You can have it.

The apt analogy is that you can either have a home-cooked meal (and not every parent can cook well), or you can stick with the cafeteria food (what we have now), or you can go out and choose one of many different restaurants until you find what suits you.


The restaurants have a three piece suit requirement and meals are 30$. Smooth deal for little Jimmy that loves a good steak (calculus) but his mother lives in a trailer and his father died on the barricades seven years ago. But then again, you don't think he deserves that steak, because there are better children that should have it.

Also, sorry for the late reply, i have been in the Philippine archipelago.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:35 pm UTC

eXS wrote:However, I think your misinterpreting. The reasons fast food doesn't compare to a home-cooked meal are that fast food has to be fast. That usually means fiddling with what's actually in them (a normal burger cooked on a grill takes longer than 30 seconds), preparing them ahead of time (usually by flash-freezing and then flash-frying), and standardizing everything. Fast food places sacrifice quality for speed and low prices. Your mother, however, can take half an hour or longer to make dinner, which means she can make things better.

No thats what i meant. Exactly. Stuff is being sacrificed because there is money to be made.[/quote]

Stuff is being sacrificed because people want food, fast.

Even if there was no profit motive, your mom could not produce food as fast as a fast food joint, and provide it to as many people who want that food as a fast food joint does.

Stuff can get sacrificed for profit -- however, you are mistaking things getting sacrificed for cost and things getting sacrificed for profit. They are quite different things. When you sacrifice things for cost, you are efficiently solving the problem.

The apt analogy is that you can either have a home-cooked meal (and not every parent can cook well), or you can stick with the cafeteria food (what we have now), or you can go out and choose one of many different restaurants until you find what suits you.


The restaurants have a three piece suit requirement and meals are 30$. Smooth deal for little Jimmy that loves a good steak (calculus) but his mother lives in a trailer and his father died on the barricades seven years ago. But then again, you don't think he deserves that steak, because there are better children that should have it.

Also, sorry for the late reply, i have been in the Philippine archipelago.


Yes, private schools are expensive. Well, actually, most are not that much more expensive than public schools -- it is just that they aren't funded by the government.

10,000$ per student is a ballpark number for spending on public schooling. This is the same approximate cost that basic private education (like Montessori schools) tend to cost. The only difference is that parents who send kids to stuff like Montessori schools don't get education subsidized by the government.

Not all private schools are super-expensive institutions of elite social classes. In fact, I'd argue for vouchers that didn't work if the school asked for any more money* than the amount of the voucher.

* Optional fees for extra things, like field trips, might be allowed.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:39 pm UTC

TheStranger wrote:If people had more control over their education choices then they would have a greater reason to care about it.

Well, let's assume you're right and that giving parents more control over their kids' educations would increase the amount of interest in education, it seems a reasonable assumption to make. But I think we need to make another reasonable assumption: That parents' interest in education will stay emphasized on the same aspects if it increases as it does now, since there's nothing to indicate that said emphasis would change.

And would I be wrong in saying the primary interest, by a large margin, in primary education in America is not at all a matter of schooling, but instead the inclusion of religious materials into the students' curriculum?

TheStranger wrote:Right now a child is captive to what ever school district he happens to be in. all a school needs to do is 'doll up'. under a more competitive system a school that just prettied up would have to compete against schools pursuing real change.

A school spending its' money 'pursuing real change' is not going to convince people as well as a school that spends its' money on looking like it is doing so. This is because there is no good hard-and-fast standard for measuring educational quality for parents to judge results by - parents must judge by appearances.

TheStranger wrote:As stated above, with greater control will come greater interest in euducation.

But not neccessarily the kind of interest that will improve our education - more instead the kind that will aggrivate the tendency for, for example, our biology classrooms to be considered the laughingstock of the industrialized world.

TheStranger wrote:Difficult but not impossible. I'd see a combination of standard testing, formal reviews, and end result analysis would provide a good indication a schools progress / student support


And how are market forces going to establish any kind of single standard in a discipline as diverse and complex as education? Mind that multiple minor standards lead to the problems of obfuscating and inflating results - "standards" which sound more favorable for schools will tend to be used more often (and schools will change to standards in which they look better so that they can get more business), and a proliferation of different standards makes it difficult for parents to judge which has any significance in education.

Formal reviews and accreditation present similar problems - colleges have less problems with this because colleges service adults who are able and willing to move closer to campus, which centralizes the structure into much larger, thus much fewer, thus much easier to control, campuses. And even then there are institutions in which a degree isn't worth the paper its' printed on, and degrees which one gets not for education but for credentials in the technically-ignorant world of business.

And what is 'end-result analysis'? Checking the median income of the jobs of students of a school that's likely to have been competed out of business by the time their students become adults?
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Clumpy » Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:48 pm UTC

These issues are irrelevant because forcing someone to pay for a school that they don't want to attend represents a huge civil rights violation and is patently unconstitutional.

I'm not arguing that public schools should not exist (though they certainly don't appear in the Constitution and create a host of state/federal/religion issues), but that it's not the government's role to make everything happy, solving these problems of social interaction and well-rounded instruction. Accreditation programs and tests based on various necessary knowledge could be created and maintained by private organizations, maintained by charging those who desire to take accreditation tests, similar to the SAT or ACT. The issue of whether this is a better system or not is irrelevant because it's not the role of government to solve all of our problems.

We get so worked up about free speech (which is absolutely justified), but neglect personal financial freedom. The belief that people don't have the right to their own dollars and cents because only a huge, bureacratic organization can make everything better is a nod to fascism, pure and simple.

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:34 pm UTC

Indon wrote:And would I be wrong in saying the primary interest, by a large margin, in primary education in America is not at all a matter of schooling, but instead the inclusion of religious materials into the students' curriculum?


lacking hard numbers I can only speak anecdotally... but yes. Though the inclusion or religious materials IS important to a number of parents a vastly larger number of parents would be interested in non-religious materials (including most of those in favor of religious teachings).

A school spending its' money 'pursuing real change' is not going to convince people as well as a school that spends its' money on looking like it is doing so. This is because there is no good hard-and-fast standard for measuring educational quality for parents to judge results by - parents must judge by appearances.


That is where research comes into play. Picking a school for one's child is not a decision made in an afternoon of googling. Look at the amount of work it takes for parents who currently want to put their children into private school and you'll have an idea of what goes into picking a school.

But not neccessarily the kind of interest that will improve our education - more instead the kind that will aggrivate the tendency for, for example, our biology classrooms to be considered the laughingstock of the industrialized world.


interested, but not in the right way... that sounds a little odd to me. In the end, regardless of what IS done there can be no control over the direction that a parents interest in education would take. I'd rather get parents involved and trust that the net gain would be positive, rather then allow our system to keep sinking.

And how are market forces going to establish any kind of single standard in a discipline as diverse and complex as education? Mind that multiple minor standards lead to the problems of obfuscating and inflating results - "standards" which sound more favorable for schools will tend to be used more often (and schools will change to standards in which they look better so that they can get more business), and a proliferation of different standards makes it difficult for parents to judge which has any significance in education.


I never did say it would be easy, just that the tools to judge a schools effectiveness could (and would be) developed. A 'single' standard would be nearly impossible to develop of judging school X. multiple standards, reflecting the different aspects of schooling would be used to judge its effectiveness. And, as stated above, a parent would HAVE to do their research.

Formal reviews and accreditation present similar problems - colleges have less problems with this because colleges service adults who are able and willing to move closer to campus, which centralizes the structure into much larger, thus much fewer, thus much easier to control, campuses. And even then there are institutions in which a degree isn't worth the paper its' printed on, and degrees which one gets not for education but for credentials in the technically-ignorant world of business.


The quality of a local school is a very important factor when selecting a home for many parents (many are willing to move to a different school district just because of the school, even if it means greater expenses and longer commutes).

I'm unsure as to what your referring to with that last bit about credentials... The credentials I'm familiar with represent training given in specific programs, environments, or processes.

And what is 'end-result analysis'? Checking the median income of the jobs of students of a school that's likely to have been competed out of business by the time their students become adults?


Then what metric would you recommend?
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:23 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:lacking hard numbers I can only speak anecdotally... but yes. Though the inclusion or religious materials IS important to a number of parents a vastly larger number of parents would be interested in non-religious materials (including most of those in favor of religious teachings).

Evidently things are very much the other way around - teaching creationism in schools is a hot-button issue because it is the most important educational issue to the largest number of parents.

It would be outright bad for our nations' education for those individuals to get their way - which privatization of schooling would do.

TheStranger wrote:That is where research comes into play. Picking a school for one's child is not a decision made in an afternoon of googling. Look at the amount of work it takes for parents who currently want to put their children into private school and you'll have an idea of what goes into picking a school.

Research into what? What do parents look at when they send their children to private school, then - the statistics the school brags about? "Awards" from third parties (See: Accreditation)? Maybe the school offers a nice, controlled "orientation" which it invites parents to to show off? Or maybe the price tag is what's important?

We're back to there being no good metric for measuring a school's success, which lets the school's owners show parents anything they like and they have few, if any, tools to fact-check it.

TheStranger wrote:interested, but not in the right way... that sounds a little odd to me. In the end, regardless of what IS done there can be no control over the direction that a parents interest in education would take. I'd rather get parents involved and trust that the net gain would be positive, rather then allow our system to keep sinking.

Privatizing education, it seems to me, is like patching up the hole in a ship's hull with explosives. Yes, things may get better, but signs point to things getting way worse.

TheStranger wrote:I never did say it would be easy, just that the tools to judge a schools effectiveness could (and would be) developed.

There are nations with strong private schooling industries, in which presumably extensive research is going on into those metrics - These nations are years (I would say decades) ahead of us in education techniques but those metrics do not exist yet.

TheStranger wrote:The quality of a local school is a very important factor when selecting a home for many parents (many are willing to move to a different school district just because of the school, even if it means greater expenses and longer commutes).

Yeah, my parents were like that. The problem is, the metrics which measure public school 'quality' now are the same as those which would measure private school quality - and they're bad measures.

Well, I guess except for neighborhood crime rate. That's probably a good metric for education quality in the area in a public school system.

TheStranger wrote:I'm unsure as to what your referring to with that last bit about credentials... The credentials I'm familiar with represent training given in specific programs, environments, or processes.

Certainly you've seen a job that requires an X-year degree. That's the kind of thing I'm referring to.

TheStranger wrote:Then what metric would you recommend?


None. I feel we are decades of research from a metric of sufficiently high quality to support market education, presuming such a thing is possible.

Which is why my position on the issue is that we steal things that others have developed - we look at the countries producing successful, intelligent, well-informed individuals and we mercilessly copy their educational techniques. We can benefit from research into education performed by nations who care more than we do, and if/when the metric is ever developed that would support high-quality private education, we will almost certainly not be the ones to develop it... but that doesn't mean we can't use it.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:19 am UTC

Indon wrote:Evidently things are very much the other way around - teaching creationism in schools is a hot-button issue because it is the most important educational issue to the largest number of parents.

It would be outright bad for our nations' education for those individuals to get their way - which privatization of schooling would do.


any hard numbers on that? Just because a handful of dull bulbs in some jerkwater are for it does not imply 'the largest number'.

Research into what? What do parents look at when they send their children to private school, then - the statistics the school brags about? "Awards" from third parties (See: Accreditation)? Maybe the school offers a nice, controlled "orientation" which it invites parents to to show off? Or maybe the price tag is what's important?


some quick googling offers the following:
information on selecting a school
this bit from the DoE

We're back to there being no good metric for measuring a school's success, which lets the school's owners show parents anything they like and they have few, if any, tools to fact-check it.


I can think of a few areas of research...
classroom size
% of students who go on to college
curriculum specifics
textbooks used
awards won by students/teachers


Privatizing education, it seems to me, is like patching up the hole in a ship's hull with explosives. Yes, things may get better, but signs point to things getting way worse.


The ship is already going under (to extend your metaphor).

There are nations with strong private schooling industries, in which presumably extensive research is going on into those metrics - These nations are years (I would say decades) ahead of us in education techniques but those metrics do not exist yet.


And we should look elsewhere in developing our own program. No reason to reinvent the wheel, as they say.



Yeah, my parents were like that. The problem is, the metrics which measure public school 'quality' now are the same as those which would measure private school quality - and they're bad measures.

Well, I guess except for neighborhood crime rate. That's probably a good metric for education quality in the area in a public school system.


My point was, that some semblance of a school ranking/rating system is enough to change the property values for a wide area. The interest is there (from the parents) now we just need to offer the choice.

Certainly you've seen a job that requires an X-year degree. That's the kind of thing I'm referring to.


like a 2 or 4 year degree?

None. I feel we are decades of research from a metric of sufficiently high quality to support market education, presuming such a thing is possible.


Yes, we do need to conduct research and testing. In a sense this is already underway (voucher programs are being tested in a number of cities).

Which is why my position on the issue is that we steal things that others have developed - we look at the countries producing successful, intelligent, well-informed individuals and we mercilessly copy their educational techniques. We can benefit from research into education performed by nations who care more than we do, and if/when the metric is ever developed that would support high-quality private education, we will almost certainly not be the ones to develop it... but that doesn't mean we can't use it.


Why not? Right now the US (I'm assuming that your from the US) lacks the moral fortitude needed to improve the current education system. This is because there is little that a parent can do TO influence the school system.

I say GIVE those parents the choice and they will become more interested. More money will be spent (and it will be spent directly at the school/district level), from that the system will improve.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Fledermen64 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:07 am UTC

Heres the problem. Define fix. Do you mean less broken or giving everyone a chance to learn.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Yakk » Tue Mar 18, 2008 4:20 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
TheStranger wrote:lacking hard numbers I can only speak anecdotally... but yes. Though the inclusion or religious materials IS important to a number of parents a vastly larger number of parents would be interested in non-religious materials (including most of those in favor of religious teachings).

Evidently things are very much the other way around - teaching creationism in schools is a hot-button issue because it is the most important educational issue to the largest number of parents.


No, teaching creationism in school is a hot-button issue because some parents who are very vocal care about it.

Under the current system, being vocal gets you more say. Under a "put your kid where you want" system, having a kid gets you more say. It is the difference between "meet the public feedback" soviets, "voting" elections, and "free market" pick your own best choice levels of input.

It would be outright bad for our nations' education for those individuals to get their way - which privatization of schooling would do.


They could send their own children to schools that taught them stupid things, yes. They could no longer cause other people's children to have to be taught their stupid things.

Research into what? What do parents look at when they send their children to private school, then - the statistics the school brags about? "Awards" from third parties (See: Accreditation)? Maybe the school offers a nice, controlled "orientation" which it invites parents to to show off? Or maybe the price tag is what's important?

We're back to there being no good metric for measuring a school's success, which lets the school's owners show parents anything they like and they have few, if any, tools to fact-check it.


Whatever the parents demand. We could even require each school to publish statistical information about their students and the CVs of their teachers, etc.

Privatizing education, it seems to me, is like patching up the hole in a ship's hull with explosives. Yes, things may get better, but signs point to things getting way worse.


So don't do it everywhere at once. As noted, right now private schools don't do a measurably worse job of educating children, and they are constrained by having to "double charge" parents for their education (once by throwing away the free public education, and twice to pay for the school itself).

If this is the case, then vouchers will at worst allow parents to have more choice asto where they send their children. And choice is a good thing.

None. I feel we are decades of research from a metric of sufficiently high quality to support market education, presuming such a thing is possible.

Which is why my position on the issue is that we steal things that others have developed - we look at the countries producing successful, intelligent, well-informed individuals and we mercilessly copy their educational techniques. We can benefit from research into education performed by nations who care more than we do, and if/when the metric is ever developed that would support high-quality private education, we will almost certainly not be the ones to develop it... but that doesn't mean we can't use it.


So here we have the implementation problem. Do you know what one of the largest points of a voucher system is?

Thousands of experiments with slight variations. Lots of choice. And when someone figures out a way to educate children better, it can be mercilessly copied.

Think about it: what are the properties of a good factory? We now know lots of them, but they where developed because people built factories along different plans. Some people had a good idea, and built a better factory. Others copied that good idea. Then more variation, some good ideas, some copies, etc.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Thu Mar 20, 2008 12:04 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:any hard numbers on that? Just because a handful of dull bulbs in some jerkwater are for it does not imply 'the largest number'.

Well, in the 90's, it was a definite problem in the US. Years later, we find that creationist belief is still pervasive in the US. That is quite evidently not a 'vocal minority'. That's a majority (or a plurality at the most optimistic). They're vocal because they have massive numbers.

Though the US has probably the greatest problem with this, other nations are apparently not immune when private education is considered.


TheStranger wrote:some quick googling offers the following:
information on selecting a school
this bit from the DoE

And if you'll look at those standards, you'll see that the ones that aren't based off of what the school tells you, conformance to standardized public education metrics, or crime-rate related data, are limited to student/teacher ratios and student self-reporting metrics. Do you think that array is at all robust?


TheStranger wrote:I can think of a few areas of research...
classroom size
% of students who go on to college
curriculum specifics
textbooks used
awards won by students/teachers

I've addressed most of those in earlier posts. Classroom size is a good general metric but does not deal well with unorthodox teaching styles (which are presumably a benefit of private education). Number of students who go on to college is a fine measurement of the quality of an institution as of years before any prospective student would have entered it, during which time (especially in the case of primary education) much of the staff including the leadership is likely to have changed. 'Curriculum specifics' is the school's pick-up line for what they're going to supposedly teach the kids - not what they succeed at doing. Textbooks are a good indicator that a school might have a blatantly bad curriculum, but you could get that from the curriculum specifics, more than likely. And as I noted, 'awards' courtesy of interested third parties don't necessarily mean anything.


TheStranger wrote:The ship is already going under (to extend your metaphor).

But it's yet to capsize and at least some of the pumps are working. Ordinance would change that.


TheStranger wrote:And we should look elsewhere in developing our own program. No reason to reinvent the wheel, as they say.

The proverbial wheel in this case hasn't been invented yet, and people have been trying. No reason to further endanger the education of our nation to try and make it.



TheStranger wrote:My point was, that some semblance of a school ranking/rating system is enough to change the property values for a wide area. The interest is there (from the parents) now we just need to offer the choice.

Yeah, there's a lot of potential for profit in "measuring" school quality. At the moment, the government inhibits the potential for corruption in blatantly inaccurate reporting, but introducing a stronger private system - in which the demand for evaluation standards would go up coinciding with a lack of good, solid metrics throws the gate open for individuals with a fiscal stake in a schools' evaluation.

The interest is there for profiteers, too - all we need to do is offer them the means.


TheStranger wrote:Yes, we do need to conduct research and testing. In a sense this is already underway (voucher programs are being tested in a number of cities).

And those tests are good ideas - they'll inform us of problems with the system and ways we can possibly change it to make it better.


TheStranger wrote:Why not? Right now the US (I'm assuming that your from the US) lacks the moral fortitude needed to improve the current education system. This is because there is little that a parent can do TO influence the school system.

I say GIVE those parents the choice and they will become more interested. More money will be spent (and it will be spent directly at the school/district level), from that the system will improve.


And that's a fine position. My position is that the US lacks the moral fortitude needed to improve our education system because our culture does not hold respect for "Book learning", and "Science", and as such gives little heed to the need for education. If I'm correct, giving parents more control over their childrens' educations will be actively harming them. Not for all children, of course, but for far too many for there to be any significant benefit from such a system.

Yakk wrote:They could send their own children to schools that taught them stupid things, yes. They could no longer cause other people's children to have to be taught their stupid things.

The problem being that if a significant number of people in my nation are less educated, my entire nation's economy suffers. These people will, either way, impact me negatively, but only in a public education system can I face and stop them.

Yakk wrote:Whatever the parents demand. We could even require each school to publish statistical information about their students and the CVs of their teachers, etc.

You're assuming that supply will outstrip demand, allowing for significant choice in service. This is not a good bet for a service in which the demand is high, for a system (vouchers) which can not offer price elasticity on the supply-side. And I think we're already familiar with the problems with a non-voucher system of private education.

Yakk wrote:So don't do it everywhere at once. As noted, right now private schools don't do a measurably worse job of educating children, and they are constrained by having to "double charge" parents for their education (once by throwing away the free public education, and twice to pay for the school itself).

And right now they are strongly biased towards positive results - firstly, as it stands primarily parents significantly interested in their childrens' education will pursue a private school, and parental interest is an extremely strong indicator of academic success. Secondly, precisely because of that "double charging", the privately schooled demographic is of a higher average socioeconomic status - another indicator of academic success.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Tyr_oathkeeper » Thu Mar 20, 2008 1:51 am UTC

I think that reducing the power that the teacher unions and curriculum over teachers. If the good teachers could be rewarded then better teaching will occur. and Unions try and even out the pay.

(I am having a hard time presenting my opinions without them coming of al a conspiracy theory. I will look into it and post more later)

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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby TheStranger » Thu Mar 20, 2008 4:30 am UTC

Indon wrote:Well, in the 90's, it was a definite problem in the US. Years later, we find that creationist belief is still pervasive in the US. That is quite evidently not a 'vocal minority'. That's a majority (or a plurality at the most optimistic). They're vocal because they have massive numbers.

Though the US has probably the greatest problem with this, other nations are apparently not immune when private education is considered.


Those US numbers seem to break about even along an evolution/anti-evolution split. Considering the number of Americans who consider themselves Christian it's not surprising that a large portion of the population falls in the theistic evolution crowd (note, this is a diverse area containing many different variations).

If Creationists have the numbers that you seem to think they do then they would have no problem implementing their beliefs by putting politicians in place to force their beliefs through the process.


And if you'll look at those standards, you'll see that the ones that aren't based off of what the school tells you, conformance to standardized public education metrics, or crime-rate related data, are limited to student/teacher ratios and student self-reporting metrics. Do you think that array is at all robust?


That was just a quick google search, not an indepth analysis. If I had kids, and was looking at private schools, I'd have more information. Many of the links I looked at came from the Department of Education, which would be as good an impartial judge as anyone can expect.


I've addressed most of those in earlier posts. Classroom size is a good general metric but does not deal well with unorthodox teaching styles (which are presumably a benefit of private education).


I would expect that if a school was using an unorthodox style of teaching that led to a large student:teacher ratio would use that technique as one of it's 'selling points' (as a small ratio is seen as a good sign by most people).

Number of students who go on to college is a fine measurement of the quality of an institution as of years before any prospective student would have entered it, during which time (especially in the case of primary education) much of the staff including the leadership is likely to have changed.


One would have to look at a broad range of numbers, but much of the focus would be on the last few graduating classes. In addition, a school with a long history of high numbers would be a good sign of a well developed program.

'Curriculum specifics' is the school's pick-up line for what they're going to supposedly teach the kids - not what they succeed at doing.


True, but if I was looking for a school focusing on music I could rule out schools that focused on science.

Textbooks are a good indicator that a school might have a blatantly bad curriculum, but you could get that from the curriculum specifics, more than likely.


So a curriculum can be judged? Hasn't your entire point been that there is no way to objectively determine a schools 'quality'

And as I noted, 'awards' courtesy of interested third parties don't necessarily mean anything.


Awards, and accreditation from recognized third parties are a very good way to determine somethings quality without doing a massive amount of leg work yourself.

But it's yet to capsize and at least some of the pumps are working. Ordinance would change that.


Any voucher program would have to grow over time, it would not be something that could be implemented immediately.


The proverbial wheel in this case hasn't been invented yet, and people have been trying. No reason to further endanger the education of our nation to try and make it.


Even if you are not for a voucher system, surely you see that the education system needs to be improved. A key step in that process is the development of a usable metric. I feel that the market system encouraged by a widespread voucher system would push the development of that metric to the forefront.



Yeah, there's a lot of potential for profit in "measuring" school quality. At the moment, the government inhibits the potential for corruption in blatantly inaccurate reporting, but introducing a stronger private system - in which the demand for evaluation standards would go up coinciding with a lack of good, solid metrics throws the gate open for individuals with a fiscal stake in a schools' evaluation.


It's a chicken in the egg situation then? we cannot move forward in education reform without a usable metric... but then no metric can be developed because any would be automatically corrupted?


And those tests are good ideas - they'll inform us of problems with the system and ways we can possibly change it to make it better.


So now you do support voucher programs?

And that's a fine position. My position is that the US lacks the moral fortitude needed to improve our education system because our culture does not hold respect for "Book learning", and "Science", and as such gives little heed to the need for education. If I'm correct, giving parents more control over their childrens' educations will be actively harming them. Not for all children, of course, but for far too many for there to be any significant benefit from such a system.


chicken / egg again... we need parental involvement to improve the school system, but parental involvement would lead us in the wrong direction?

The problem being that if a significant number of people in my nation are less educated, my entire nation's economy suffers. These people will, either way, impact me negatively, but only in a public education system can I face and stop them.


from what you've pointed out above there is no way to use the education system to 'face and stop them'. Any true reforms could be crushed through voting.

A vast majority of parents understand the value/importance of an education, but they currently lack the ability to chose the form of that education (aside from physically moving to a different school district).

You're assuming that supply will outstrip demand, allowing for significant choice in service. This is not a good bet for a service in which the demand is high, for a system (vouchers) which can not offer price elasticity on the supply-side. And I think we're already familiar with the problems with a non-voucher system of private education.


A good chunk of the supply is already in place, the current school system would not be torn down. There would be a 'spin up' time period (15-20 years) between the beginnings of a nation wide voucher program and the establishment of a mature marketplace.

And right now they are strongly biased towards positive results - firstly, as it stands primarily parents significantly interested in their childrens' education will pursue a private school, and parental interest is an extremely strong indicator of academic success. Secondly, precisely because of that "double charging", the privately schooled demographic is of a higher average socioeconomic status - another indicator of academic success.


As it stands, only a wealthy parent can make a choice in their child's education. In doing so they are better able to select programs that benefit their children as well as finding a quality school. All I'm asking is that that opportunity be extended to a wider number of parents.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby Indon » Thu Mar 20, 2008 9:52 am UTC

TheStranger wrote:If Creationists have the numbers that you seem to think they do then they would have no problem implementing their beliefs by putting politicians in place to force their beliefs through the process.

That is the source of all our educational systems' evolution-related issues - without a significant voter base they would not be a problem of significance. So what's stopping them, you ask? The court system is. "Intelligent Design" has been ruled to be not-science, thus to teach it is a violation of separation of church and state and quite illegal.

Private education would remove that impediment.


TheStranger wrote:That was just a quick google search, not an indepth analysis. If I had kids, and was looking at private schools, I'd have more information. Many of the links I looked at came from the Department of Education, which would be as good an impartial judge as anyone can expect.

Well, there are some commonalities with colleges, since many of those are private institutions. So what do you use to determine the quality of a college?

-You review its' accreditation and see what other schools are covered by it, a measure which works best in a system with a smaller number of schools,
-You swap word-of-mouth about the quality of education with students in or graduates of the place, a measure that works best in a system with, well, adults (who I daresay would self-report more accurately than a primary school student),
-You look at teacher/class size ratio,
-And you check the price tag.

So it seems to me you got a good representative sample of what you can do for any private school.

TheStranger wrote:I would expect that if a school was using an unorthodox style of teaching that led to a large student:teacher ratio would use that technique as one of it's 'selling points' (as a small ratio is seen as a good sign by most people).

Or just an excuse to have large class sizes without being punished overmuch for it.

TheStranger wrote:One would have to look at a broad range of numbers, but much of the focus would be on the last few graduating classes. In addition, a school with a long history of high numbers would be a good sign of a well developed program.

Its' true that enough years of good numbers can make for a strong indicator, but there's no mechanic for a good school in a private market to survive that long.

TheStranger wrote:True, but if I was looking for a school focusing on music I could rule out schools that focused on science.

That's not a measure of quality, but of direction, though, that's about what I'm referring to here...

TheStranger wrote:So a curriculum can be judged? Hasn't your entire point been that there is no way to objectively determine a schools 'quality'

Because if you want a school focusing on science, you rule out schools focused on religion.

Though that leads to another part of the problem with parental 'interest' in their kids' education - parents selecting schools focused on fields that will leave children ill-suited to the world at large. If parents are all sending their kids to athletics and music-oriented schools, interest in the fields (and you can't deny that many, many parents are interested in those things) will cause inflated numbers of athletes and musicians, who then end up working for less (if they can find work in those fields), meanwhile, parents aren't sending their kids to Scientific Method school to take the reigns of our technologically-focused society because what parent wants their kid to become a nerd (barring nerds, anyway)?

TheStranger wrote:Awards, and accreditation from recognized third parties are a very good way to determine somethings quality without doing a massive amount of leg work yourself.

Third parties recognized by who?

TheStranger wrote:It's a chicken in the egg situation then? we cannot move forward in education reform without a usable metric... but then no metric can be developed because any would be automatically corrupted?

No, no. It's that without a metric it opens the door for a system rife with corruption and 'doping' up its' results, which removes much of the supposed benefits of a competitive educational system.

TheStranger wrote:So now you do support voucher programs?

I guess I should have stipulated, "Ideally" to that. In practice, a test voucher program is likely to be rife with the interference of profit-interested parties who want the system to look good so that they can make a buck off of it later.

TheStranger wrote:Even if you are not for a voucher system, surely you see that the education system needs to be improved. A key step in that process is the development of a usable metric. I feel that the market system encouraged by a widespread voucher system would push the development of that metric to the forefront.


TheStranger wrote:chicken / egg again... we need parental involvement to improve the school system, but parental involvement would lead us in the wrong direction?


No, no. You don't see, I don't agree that giving parents more choice will make them care - disregard for academics is something that has existed in our culture for decades, if not hundreds of years, and a private school system will only allow for the expression of this disregard, not for some supposed golden age of people giving a damn about what kids learn.

As such, our culture in the US can not support a healthy competitive environment for education - there is insufficient product interest.

TheStranger wrote:from what you've pointed out above there is no way to use the education system to 'face and stop them'. Any true reforms could be crushed through voting.

I was referring to the court decisions, though you certainly have a point - the education system can not move forward without everyone moving forward at once, which forces it to move forward at only a glacial pace.

But this is as it should be! We can't afford to leave a significant portion of the populace far behind in education - our culture does not need to create a whole new generation of social mobility problems with disparate standards of education for different parts of the populace, we know how problematic those are.

TheStranger wrote:A vast majority of parents understand the value/importance of an education, but they currently lack the ability to chose the form of that education (aside from physically moving to a different school district).

Now I'm going to be the one to ask for hard numbers. How many parents actually think academics are important, versus things like safety in school and recieving instruction in good 'moral' values?

TheStranger wrote:A good chunk of the supply is already in place, the current school system would not be torn down. There would be a 'spin up' time period (15-20 years) between the beginnings of a nation wide voucher program and the establishment of a mature marketplace.

That's not what I'm referring to. I'm referring to the simple fact that the school has the advantage in the supply/demand relationship - a school loses some money if it refuses to bring in any given kid, but a kid loses an education if his parents refuse to bring him in for schooling. While no doubt some parents could and would be willing to have that happen, the kid does not win out in such a situation.

TheStranger wrote:As it stands, only a wealthy parent can make a choice in their child's education. In doing so they are better able to select programs that benefit their children as well as finding a quality school. All I'm asking is that that opportunity be extended to a wider number of parents.


You don't know that it's the programs or the school benefitting them, is the problem - signs indicate that the parents and their pocketbooks are the major factor there - mind that wealth correlates to education among individuals who would all be in public school, too.
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Re: Improving the educational system

Postby jabberwock33 » Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:51 pm UTC

Why not massively slash the military budget and put it in into education and other public services? Not to mention paying off our ridiculous national deficit...


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