Saturday, February 20, 2010

Leaving Some Children Behind

Leaving Some Children Behind

Wasn't it just a day or two ago that I already touched the subject of schools and how they're failing and why public education sucks ass? Well.. here's an older article.. Hell, this whole piece is pretty much an older piece that I had sitting in my draft section for a while now. Considering I already wrote something about No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top, some of it is sort of repeating, but then again, a lot of it is fleshing out new information that you could use to be more informed about the education of this generations youth. Then just since this is a subject that has a lot of material to cover, there's going to be some even more fucked up stuff in here.

First something old. Remember when Unions were criticizing Obama for what amounts to Bush level polices on No Child Left Behind?
To the surprise of many educators who campaigned last year for change in the White House, the Obama administration's first recipe for school reform relies heavily on Bush-era ingredients and adds others that make unions gag.

Standardized testing, school accountability, performance pay, charter schools -- all are integral to President Obama's $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" grant competition to spur innovation. None is a typical Democratic crowd-pleaser.

Labor leaders, parsing the Education Department's fine print, call the proposal little more than a dressed-up version of the No Child Left Behind law enacted seven years ago under Obama's Republican predecessor.

"It looks like the only strategies they have are charter schools and measurement," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. "That's Bush III."
Weingarten, who praises Obama for massive federal aid to help schools through the recession, said her 1.4 million-member union is engaged in "a constructive but tart dialogue" with the administration about reform.
How exactly was he simultaneously getting called a socialist AND pulling retarded backwards shit like that? The article goes on to say that No Child Left Behind esque requirements will determine which schools are transformed into charter schools. Ha, now that's comedy considering how shitty NCLB is.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. If I was raising a child right now here is no way in hell I would want to send him or her to a public school. Not even busing them to the rich community schools like my parents did for me. What I'm saying with that is I wouldn't even send them to a charter public school even if it was full of rich white people, Indians, Chinese and Jews.

A lot of education policy people say the biggest problem with No Child Left Behind was not its core concepts but the fact that it was underfunded from the start. The theory goes: if you actually have enough money to get good teachers and small class sizes, you won't have to teach-toward-the-test as much, but you still have some way to measure performance.

As for charter schools, fuck them. Charter schools are extremely shitty. Also, small class size doesn't necessarily mean better education. You can have a 10-1 student-teacher ratio, but if it means you have to hire 2 shitty teachers for every good teacher, then you'd be better off with a 30-1 student-teacher ratio.

That whole problem could be avoided by removing standardized testing entirely and replacing it with basic milestones for kids to achieve before moving on. Stuff like you must be able to read competently by the end of the 6th grade. You can't? There's a class for that. The only downfall in that is it punishes failing schools by taking away money. So if your school was terrible, it continued being terrible until they shut it down.

The typical time line went along these lines: A school fails to meet NCLB standards, the school gets taken over by the government, extracurricular activities get cut, AP classes egt cut, electives get cut, "school choice" get shopped to parents, everyone with the economic means pulls their children out of the school which leads to further failure to meet standards, opponents of public education point to another example of a failed public school.

In college I had a Russian professor that used to talk about a colleague he had had, who was dutch. The fella uprooted his family, gave up his teaching/research job here, and moved back home across the ocean to Europe because he felt it would be neglectful to his kids to cripple them by allowing them to endure an education in US schools.

How bad is the school system here? When Mercedes Benz built their first car factory in the US, they had a contract with the university to build a "German supplementary school." Basically, any executives they sent over from Germany who had kids, required that there be another additional school built so that when they moved back home their kids wouldn't be retards. I think they still went to public schools, this was just where they went to actually learn anything.

My sister is a school teacher for a school that has a majority of Spanish only speaking parents and that doesn't get all that much funding. I've often seen one glass of wine at dinner turn into a bottle of wine with "oh my god, fuck everyone I work with and the whole goddamn establishment I just want to help these kids" comments scattered throughout. I guess this is all just preparation since I have a girlfriend who is shooting to be an educator. Thankfully she's smart enough to shoot for working in a better school system.

So why would people choose the thankless, low paying and high accountability job like this? I suppose job security. It's there and even though schools were the last to offer a pension and benefits plan, they do still have them. But in my opinion, being a teacher these days in a lot of public schools is not worth sticking it out because of the stress and political bullshit.

They pull the funding, so the state/district closes the school for X amount of time. They re-open it later on with a different name and only allow a portion o the students that are in the area or attended it before into the "new" school, and/or it's a charter-style school. Not sure why they have to change the name of the school unless that's some idiotic bureaucracy thing. Existing students get bussed to other area schools. Which only means those kids spend more time on the bus which takes away from time you're able to spend on schoolwork or at home.

The cancer that caused the last school to fail gets spread to other schools and that means the new school gets a hit with lower test scores and potentially get funding taken away from them. Maybe they'll even get shut down because of the lower test scores themselves.. displacing even more children. This gets parents to pull out their kids from said schools because they don't want them to be taught alongside kids from certain backgrounds.

In most cases the schools being shut down are in poor neighborhoods which means the parents may not have an easy time getting to the schools their kids are being bussed to now as public transit sucks in many American cities. It may not seem like a big deal in the suburbs to hop in your care and spend 10-15 minutes driving to a school that's slightly further than the one that was down the street, but if you're poor and rely on public transit that 15 minute car drive turns into 45 minute bus ride and walk. Many people can't afford to just take off an extra hour or two just to go see the kid's teachers

I remember people getting into the conspiracy shit and saying that this was a way to kill off public schools and cripple education in poor areas. I blew that off as tinfoil sort of stuff, but that sure as hell seems to be what's happening. They are simply moving the kids around to other schools rather than address the real issues as to why the kids originally scored low in the first place.

It's stories like this one in Utah that just annoy me to no end
A Utah lawmaker has proposed a cost-cutting measure to keep high school students from slacking off in their senior year -- eliminate 12th grade.

Republican State Senator Chris Buttars earlier this month proposed ditching a fourth year of high school statewide, calling 12th grade a time for "nothing but playing around."

Addressing the Utah State Senate's Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee meeting, Buttars said cutting high school back to three years would save the strapped state $102 million annually. "You're spending a whole lot of money for a whole bunch of kids who aren't getting anything out of that grade," Buttars said. "It comes down to the best use of money." Buttars' has since diluted his proposal, saying that eliminating 12th grade should be an option available to students.
Whether off the wall shit like this passes or not, it's pretty clear to see that American schools are fucked. I'm really glad I graduated a good 12 years ago. Besides, what is the point of school in general when these kids could be using their time wisely learning the ropes for the service industry.. or joining the military.

Maybe it is easier to get all your education into 11 grades. At least it may be when you have 240 school days in a year of what we have now 180. Besides that, how useful is it learning for a test when most of that wont be absorbed. It's just sacrificing knowledge to increase arbitrary test scores. If 12th grade is nothing but playing around (and that's a big "if") then eliminating it will make 11th grade the grade for playing around... and so on and so on... until you've completely done away with public education. It's really a brilliant idea. How about we just go with milestones rather than testing and address individually rather than laying waste to an entire school (neighborhood) by closing the school down.

If we just replace all this nonsensical crap of standard testing, "increased teacher accountability" (which it isn't), and charter schools with a simple fucking milestone system then things could potentially get better. There is no downside. If a kid blows through his milestones in a few years and wants to do something hard then let him take AP physics when he's 14. Who gives a shit. Why do people force their kids into some artificial rubric like they're nothing more than stats on a spreadsheet that determines if some random teacher in Hicktown, North Wyoming gets to keep his/her job?

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