DougJ makes a good point but I think he misses mine: parental satisfaction is not a very good indicator of education quality. I think that’s the take-away message from a survey which finds that most Americans approve of their own school but disapprove of the public school system at large. There’s a disconnect there that’s not at all different from this:
Parents are not professional educator and, moreover, the public is just bad at judging things like this. For example, poll after poll shows that Americans think that crime has gone up over the past few years, when it fact it has gone down.
People think crime is high everywhere except where they live – people think schools are failing all over the country except for their own school. Take this Gallup poll, for instance. Notice that people rate crime in the area where they live as mostly not at all serious (61%), but in the United States as a whole they perceive crime as Extremely/Very serious (42% vs. only 8% in the area where they live).
The public’s perception of education looks remarkably similar:
In both instances, people are generally pretty happy with their own schools, the crime rate in their own neighborhoods, but believe that across the country crime is rampant and schools are failing left and right. In reality, crime has gone down and it’s gone down for years. The point I was trying to make is that maybe the general sentiment that education is going down the tube is about as accurate as the notion that crime is going up and up and up…
Crime may be down, but education is trickier to gauge.
You can look at dropout rates, for instance. Overall, a much smaller percentage of students dropped out of school in 2008 than in 1980 – 14.1% in 1980 compared to only 8% in 2008.
Or you could look at college enrollment numbers, which have increased significantly since 1980, from about 12 million to 19 million students, and from a student body 51% female to 57% in 2009. Then again, maybe that’s not a fast enough increase for an economy increasingly reliant on high skilled workers.
Not everything is rosy with our schools of course, especially in poor urban areas. In some states there are massive shortfalls in education budgets – in others administrators* or teachers’ unions have too much power. This article on New York’s “rubber room” from The New Yorker is worth a read. Furthermore, college is becoming increasingly expensive with tuitions that either force students and their families into massive debt or crowd them out altogether.
Just to be clear, I’m a huge supporter of public schools and education generally. You’ll get no “McArdlesque retort” from me. I come from a long line of teachers. I attended public school in several states (and Canada) and graduated from a public University using public grants and student loans. I think public education is one of the best ways we can spend tax dollars, so when I talk about waste in the system it’s not some roundabout way to advocate for slashing school budgets. I want schools to be well funded and I want that money to be well spent.
DougJ pointed out that the US is now only 12th of the top 36 developed nations for college degree carrying 25 to 34 year olds. But how much of that is just the rest of the world catching up? If you look around the world or just around the United States, you’ll see a pretty wide range of school outcomes.
I think reform is necessary, but I worry that too much federal influence and too many accountability projects will lead our system down the path of standardized tests, draining all the creativity and innovation from our classrooms. Reform is still best handled at the local level. Teacher autonomy is central to creative learning. Let’s not sacrifice autonomy on the altar of accountability.
*(On the administrative front, I was talking with some retired teachers from Oregon about some small towns up there that had broken up larger school districts that encompassed several towns into multiple smaller districts and then paid six figure incomes to each school superintendent. That’s money that could have been going directly to the classroom or to teachers’ salaries. These were strong union Democrats. They said pretty explicitly that throwing money at the problem wasn’t going to help unless waste was also confronted.)
- There have been questions about the superintendent pay. I’m fine with superintendents making very good money since they have a very demanding job. But it seems silly to break up a school district composed of three or four very small towns and start paying three or four superintendents (plus their staff) six figure salaries when one administrator could do the job just fine. Money isn’t in endless supply. Better to direct it to the classroom whenever possible rather than to unnecessary administration.
- While CEO’s certainly do make far too much money in this country, we’re comparing apples to oranges when we talk about public and private sector pay. CEO’s are not paid out of public coffers; superintendants are. Obviously this line can be blurred when companies receive government handouts, protections, and other subsidies, but that only means we should avoid crony capitalism. In other words, you can’t justify paying for unnecessary public admins just because some CEO somewhere makes too much money.
- When I say education is hard to gauge, I mean it. Many of the quibbles with the numbers I presented seem fair. They don’t really change the underlying point so far as I can tell.
- I agree that local funding of schools can be problematic and more equitable funding can help even things out; nor am I opposed to federal dollars going to schools. I simply worry that federal dollars will come with unreasonable strings attached, will lead to standardized testing regimes, etc. I think I’m right to worry about this. I don’t want public schools to turn into some massive bureaucratic machine, and one of the great features of American schools has historically been their relative autonomy.
- I’m not sure what Midnight Marauder’s point is re: NCLB. That was a massive federal program and a failure by all accounts. Does this do anything other than confirm my uneasiness with federal involvement in local education? (I do favor federal grants, especially for things like special needs programs however).
- Yes, local government can be a cesspool of corruption. But the federal government is too distant from the daily grind of our many public schools to be effective. Some balance is necessary. For instance, state or federal government should intervene in truly terrible schools or in particularly corrupt districts.
- I’m sure there are better ways to implement federal help in education than NCLB but I’m not sure what those are. We’ll see how Race to the Top goes.
- I don’t live in a community where people think the earth is 6000 years old but thanks for the gross generalization and stereotype. It’s really great to keep such an open mind.
- Re: the “you call yourself a conservative…you must be disingenuous” attack below: I actually don’t really self-identify as anything but an independent. I write about conservatism because it’s interesting and because I think there’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from studying it and I think a reformed, modern conservatism might actually be a good balance for modern liberalism; I generally believe in free markets and competition and other classically liberal/contemporary conservative economics; but I haven’t really self-identified as a conservative in a while and constantly wrestle with just how to properly self-identify. Lately I’m not so sure I care. I’m less sure that someone who does identify themselves as a conservative need fall into the conservative movement’s ideological framework. That’s just one definition of a very loose term.
People think all politicians are corrupt and useless.
Except for theirs.
Which is why incumbents rarely get beaten.
If you look at historical documents, it would be hard to find a period in American history when there was not concern about the status of public education, and I’m not counting cranks and nutcases.
24/7 news would not be on the air unless that could show high profile crimes. I’m not surprised at all by the polls.
No Child Left Behind, anyone? That federal program has well and truly screwed our schools.
I’m sorry, six-figures is too high for what is, in many of districts, the CEO of the largest concern in the region? I love how you just assume that “six-figure salaries” for top level educators is “waste”. Where, on the other hand, if you had the youngest M.D. in town, with a similar education level but MUCH less professional experience, making the same “six-figure salary”, it would be a travesty that demands immediate correction lest doctors simply go Galt and refuse to treat patients.
Actually, I totally understand how corrupt and useless Lieberman is…
1) Public perception, as determined by survey results, is often wrong on a particular issue – such as crime trends and teaching quality (ignoring the fact that the author used perception of teaching quality as an indicator of teaching quality in a prior post).
2) The author wishes to remind his readers that he very much supports teachers and the public school system.
3) But don’t pay for it with federal funds, as the federal government might impose unreasonable testing standards upon the public in its zeal for uniformity. Instead, lets keep the horrifically inconsistent funding situation at present, due to paying for education through local property taxes. That way, the system will be under “local control”.
There’s more than one way to “juke the stats”; manipulating test results isn’t the only approach. Shut out funding through unequal property valuations per town, and you too can implement a “separate but equal” school system designed to continue oppression of the poor through inadequate local school funding.
I have a minor quibble with your statistics.
I don’t think this accounts for all of it, but dropout rates became notoriously unreliable for anyone trying to get an accurate picture of how their education system works around the time that NCLB got passed – due to the stigma and funding cuts dropping out placed on schools, they began either shuttling, tracking, or otherwise getting students off the “active” roster without throwing them completely out of school.
I would also argue that the increased reliance on standardized testing is a big indication of why education is going down the tubes, but especially the increased reliance on constant standardized testing in very basic subjects and the use of testing scores to determine school funding. While I’m sure public schools in good districts continue to do well, the last ten years or so we’ve had a bunch of closet Bell Curve-ists determining the nation’s educational policy, and the effect won’t be fully visible until a few decades from now. I don’t think the answer is less federal influence, though.
I’m myself an aspiring teacher and education policy major, so I’m glad to hear from a self-professed libertarian that public education is a good thing; I’ve had to argue the question many times before and always found myself banging my head against a brick wall.
The real problem with education in the American system is that schools are funded on a local level. Because of that you have a situation where some schools are way overfunded and others are way underfunded.
Overfunding really does result in waste. But the answer isn’t less funding, it’s better distribution.
In any case, it’s a good reason why vouchers are a really bad idea. Parents actually can’t tell the quality of the education their kids are getting. They go by very simple indicators, however those indicators can be gamed to give an impression that the education is better than it actually is. Because of that, competition in the education center, actually can be a bad thing, and not a good thing.
I could write a book on problems with primary and secondary education in the United States, but I’ll save it and just agree with most of the OP.
I do think, however, that college enrollment numbers can be misleading because it’s not a reliable barometer of college preparedness unless they match up well with college graduation rates. There are quite a few schools by me that tout their college acceptance rates as a measure of their effectiveness without so much as caring whether or not their students actually finish a two or four year degree program.
This just demonstrates just how successful the MM is at accomplishing their goal.
BE SKARD! VERY SKARD! MEXYS AND NEAGROZ GUNA RAPE YO WYF!
People think crime is high everywhere except where they live
Reason simple; crime stories are cheap and politically safe. We’re now told about every petty crime in America, not just local stuff.
Ditto for the “bad school” stories.
Amanda in the South Bay
it’s too high when there are teachers being laid off that make a fraction of that six figures. A school district is not a fucking corporation.
Oh and an administrator and doctor have the same educational background? Getting a masters in education is just as rigourous and demanding as medical school?
E.D.K., how many of your posts are going to be some sort of weak as response to getting your butt waxed in a previous post? This is certainly one.
For starters, the dropout numbers you provide are for a very specific population, one that fails to encompass the depth and scope of the education crisis in this country:
So right there, we already have a problem with your analysis, because a major problem with the education system in this country is that more and more students are lost well before they even reach the age of 16. Some kids from certain socio-economic backgrounds don’t even make it to high-school, so unless you expand the scope of your analysis in who is dropping out and why, you are not even getting the full picture of the problem.
Of course, none of this means anything unless you take another step back and look at the employment and economic landscape that recent college graduates are entering these days. A landscape where college students are saddled with massive amounts of debt from student loans, a job market so flooded with applicants that there is a 5-to-1 ratio of applicants to job openings and a glut of applicants with more experience than those recent college graduates. Oh, and college just keeps getting more and more expensive to even attend (as you note), meaning that that the rising cost of even graduating has no end in sight. Not only that, but couple no substantial increase in wages and lower-paying jobs with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, and you begin to see that even if you have a college degree, there are so many other detrimental elements associated with that pursuit that it almost becomes meaningless.
Well, we just went over all the factors of how and why college degrees are becoming an expensive, necessary, if ultimately irrelevant goal for an entire generation of people. Are you trying to maintain that the rest of the world is catching up to the United States, not because the focus on and quality of education in this country is diminishing, but because it was a mere inevitability? Sure, that’s true to a degree, but by no means can you downplay the precipitous drop in focus on basic education in this country. Which leads to another point you make:
No Child Left Behind. Did you forget about that?
@Amanda in the South Bay:
I’d be surprised if there are too many superintendents in the country not making more than $100k. According to this, the average superintendent salary was $111k and the median was $112k in 2004-05. Even in the bottom bucket of per-pupil spending districts, the average was $95k. And most superintendents would have an Ed.D. or Ph.D. rather than a masters.
I’m not sure what kind of corporation pays it’s CEO $111k, but I’d venture that it has a considerably smaller budget, fewer employees, an less complexity than the average school district.
EDK’s point was that administrators are expensive, so you shouldn’t needlessly split up school districts and thereby increase your administrative costs.
Being in Arizona, you can see first hand how perception trumps reality.
Under accidental governor Brewer, the perception has become that Arizona is a narco-state with crime spiraling out of control.
The reality: Crime in Arizona has been trending downward for the last 15 years.
come on, give him some air, he’s trying to find his way. And now you made me break my promise to never post on one of his comments – I hope you’re happy :)
@QDC: And most superintendents would have an Ed.D. or Ph.D. rather than a masters.
Yeah, I’ve known people with graduate degrees in education. And I really haven’t been impressed. I’m skeptical of the notion that a PhD in education really helps administrators. And I flat out disbelieve the notion that a PhD in education is equivalent to medical school + residency in terms of difficulty.
But we probably all agree with ED’s point about splitting up large districts: it can lead to huge new admin costs that make the whole thing a bad idea.
The Moar You Know
@Shygetz: Goddamn, thank you. If the superintendent involved were the CEO of a company that had a thousand highly skilled employees, all with master’s degrees or above, and was only pulling in $400k per year (the highest salary I’ve ever seen for a superintendent), the conservatards would be demanding that he go Galt as of yesterday for having to slave away his life under communism. Throw the dogwhistle “public schools” (means money wasted on Negroes) in front of any job title and people immediately demand to know why they’re not using volunteer labor for the job. My wife’s a teacher, I don’t like what she gets paid in comparison to the superintendent either, but fuck, it’s a skilled job and one that eats you alive as far as the amount of time you have to spend at work.
@Amanda in the South Bay: and yet it’s acceptable to pay a CEO 400 times what his lowest paid worker makes. There is no superintendent in the United States that makes even 10 times what his lowest paid teacher makes (student teachers exempt, as they are free). I’m not real happy about the disparity, see above, but also have to recognize that my wife has worked under good and bad superintendents in our district and the difference it makes to her day-to-day life is huge.
Not quite, but here’s the crucial difference – the job is a boatload harder than being a doctor.
The real shit job? Being a principal. 20% increase over a teacher’s salary and your workweek goes from 60 to 90 hours a week.
@Amanda in the South Bay: Teachers being laid off does not excuse underpaying superintendents just because, well, just because. As QDC pointed out, most superintendents have doctorates, not masters, which are equivalent to MDs–there are rigorous programs and not-so-rigorous programs. And while a school district may not be a “fucking corporation”, a superintendent has the same worries…managing a work force, keeping the investors happy, providing a worthwhile product, keeping the concern within the applicable laws, keeping abreast of political changes that could affect the concern…the fact that the superintendent does this role in a not-for-profit suddenly means that s/he deserves to be paid crap wages for his/her education and experience level? With a philosophy like that, you’ll get the educational leadership you deserve.
Yeah, I’ve taught people who either have or will shortly be receiving MDs. And I really haven’t been impressed. I’ll say it again…graduate scholars in education are a mixed bag, just like MDs…some are good, some are not. If you correct for pay, you’re getting a hell of a lot more brainpower for your buck with a superintendent than an MD.
My problem with this is that it’s well known that local and county governments are frequently cesspools of corruption. They simply don’t get the same levels of scrutiny that federal, or even state, governments receive.
Of course teacher autonomy is central to creative learning. But historically, one only needs to look at the civil rights movement to see that it is usually the federal government that serves as its protector. It’s local school boards that would ban the teaching of evolution, for instance, not federal.
The problems of overstandardization, overcrowding, and overcentralizing are not necessarily the outcome of federal involvement, just the outcome of particularly poorly written legislation like No Child Left Behind – which serves less as an example of intrinsic federal failure and more as an example of Republicans running on a platform of government doesn’t work and getting elected to prove it.
I think you’ve hit the high notes of concern right here. Urban schools continue to be plagued with problems. Low income districts perform below their high income peers. College tuition – particularly in states that deregulated tuition recently, like Texas – have skyrocketed. Student debt remains a chronic condition.
That’s all something to be concerned about, even if your child isn’t enrolled in an urban school or a college.
I’m not sure why doctors became the baseline. I agree their education is considerably more rigorous than education administrators; it’s also more rigorous than most any profession. Doctors’ average salary is considerably higher than most superintendents’ salaries, and they make a lot of money throughout their careers rather than at just at the apex.
Lots of people make six figures who aren’t doctors, including a lot of people with less responsibility than a school superintendent.
Yeah, I’ve taught people who either have or will shortly be receiving MDs. And I really haven’t been impressed.
You sound like a good friend of mine who teaches at a medical school ;-)
I’ll say it again…graduate scholars in education are a mixed bag, just like MDs…some are good, some are not. If you correct for pay, you’re getting a hell of a lot more brainpower for your buck with a superintendent than an MD.
Just out of curiosity, which Ed grad programs do think are particularly good?
My belief has been that schools aren’t failing, because I’m relatively satisfied with my public K-12 education and I don’t know very many people, who feel they were undereducated in K-12.
I think the media focuses on some areas, where schools are actually struggling and somehow politicians have taken this to imply all schools are struggling or failing.
America has a unique educational system, including college, in that it allows people at any stage to make up for dropping out. In Europe and Asia, if you drop out of high school, you are a high school drop out forever. If you drop out after high school and don’t attend college, you aren’t going to college.
In America, a high school drop out can get a GED and then go to college. I don’t know how you can make us more European or Asian and still retain the second, third, fourth, and n-th number of chances we give people to make up for any gaps in their education.
@QDC: I’m not sure why doctors became the baseline. I agree their education is considerably more rigorous than education administrators; it’s also more rigorous than most any profession. Doctors’ average salary is considerably higher than most superintendents’ salaries, and they make a lot of money throughout their careers rather than at just at the apex.
Lots of people make six figures who aren’t doctors, including a lot of people with less responsibility than a school superintendent
QDC, my point was to critique the notion that doctors’ education is comparable to the average superintendents. I’m sure that most doctors make (much) more than the average superintendent. I know that medicine differs from many professions in all sorts of ways. I just don’t buy the assertion that an MD and EdD have equivalently difficult requirements or are anywhere close to equally selective in their admissions.
I welcome anyone who thinks Superintendents are overcompensated to do a little comparison. Compare the salary of a school Superintendent with that of a similarly situated Hospital Administrator in terms of staff size.
Superintendents are a bargain for the amount of responsibility they have.
The takeaway should be that decades of right-wing anti-government propaganda in the wingnut dominated media have influenced a large portion of the country to people public schools are all shitholes. Same thing for crime.
In this sort of analysis, please use figures adjusted for population size, not absolute amounts. The US population today is not what it was in 1980. Specifically, per the wiki page on US demographics and rounding to the nearest million, we’ve gone from:
This is the second time I’ve seen you make this same mistake, using an absolute rather than a normalized metric to make invalid comparisons across a span of time over which significant population growth occurred. In your much maligned post re: Krugman a few days ago, you stated that the dollars spent on education had gone up 105 percent when the article which you linked to (buried down in the detail of the point you cited) itself stated that after adjustment for inflation and growth in the absolute size of the student population the constant dollar per-pupil increase in spending was actually only 24 percent, not 105 percent. Which is a rather different kettle of fish.
If you have other more pressing demands on your time than getting these sort of little (but telling) details right, I understand. I’ve been a new dad too, at one point. But it does affect the quality of your analysis. It is a pity to have such sloppy analysis going out under your name when you seem like somebody who, given the time and energy to spare, has good intentions and is capable of something better than this.
“But we probably all agree with ED’s point about splitting up large districts: it can lead to huge new admin costs that make the whole thing a bad idea. ”
Heck its not splitting up large districts, its splitting up small districts to make tiny districts.
Vermont (population under 1M) has 240 school districts!
Their particular brand of crazy New England independence.
“My belief has been that schools aren’t failing, because I’m relatively satisfied with my public K-12 education and I don’t know very many people, who feel they were undereducated in K-12.”
1. I guess you aren’t in the south.
2. Community colleges have huge remedial programs.
Have you asked someone who gets to Community college and then is assigned to remedial classes how they feel about their K-12 education?
If you are attempting to measure how well high school prepares students for a college education, then the relevant baseline might be the number of recent high-school grads, rather than total population. A quick google search turned up this which shows that between 1980 and 2010 the rate went from about 50% to about 70%.
I’m curious what’s happened to the high school and college grad rates over that period of time, but on it’s face it’s not exactly a bleak picture.
Your point stands, of course.
@Amanda in the South Bay:
Obtuse COTD, right there. I know PA’s (NOT DOCTORS) in my area making 90-f’ing-plus to diagnose a cold or the flu. Anything outside of the condensed version of Grey’s Anatomy and they pass you off to a specialist. So yeah, I’d say the amount of work put into a Master’s in EDU could be equal to that of medical school depending on your frame of reference.
And I’m sorry, but I do not have a problem with a Sup making 100k plus in a district of 50,000+ students like you have in at least 5 Atlanta metro counties.
Funny. To hear John McCain talk about it, there’s blood running through the gutters and severed heads littered through the streets.
Most honest people who work in graduate education departments at colleges and universities will quietly admit to you that the real point in such programs is money. More money for the teacher or administrator, who will no doubt be bumped up into a better pay grade because of his newly-minted advanced degree (why the hell else do you think he’s there?). But the real story is that it’s a huge money maker for the university, which will have a steady, never-ending supply of teachers and administrators lining up to spend a nickle so they can make a dime. It’s a racket. Do not kid yourselves.
As for the salaries of “real” doctors, only complete fucktards (and many doctors) will not admit that it’s goddamn obscene the way our country has let doctors get filthy rich on the backs of taxpayer-funded entitlement programs all while providing mediocre care. Their salaries should be right down there with the shitty public school administrators they emulate. If you ask me.
Great reply comments on the NCLB “teach-to-pass-the-test Failure – and rebutting your complaint about a School Administrator making “6 figure incomes” – because only 6-figure incomes should go to Company CEOs that do what?
Educators should be paid well – I was shocked to learn how low a salary is made by a local public university Professor – who has 5 degrees – it was not over $100k.
And any education discussion cannot be missing the purposeful “dumbing down of education” by those Conservatives like the Texas Board of Education and their assault on textbooks, Dover, PA type curriculum, etc.
The “definition of science” has hit my local school district – and it is just incredibly annoying.
@Hippie Killer: As for “real” doctors:
Derived from the Latin verb docere, meaning “to teach,” the word doctor means “teacher” or, by extension, “scholar.” It most assuredly does not mean “physician.” From Roman times through the Middle Ages until well into the 18t
Yeah, it’s odd that everyone seems to be missing the point. E.D. would have to chime in, but my reading was of course they were going to be making that much–that’s the going rate, but now we are paying for several of them.
Consolidation of districts is still a fight in some areas, though admittedly other areas of the country have overconsolidated. Even if that was the case in Oregon, going to six from one is overkill. There are efficiencies in reducing districts generally.
In terms of teacher education and training, I’ve met many incredibly talented PhDs and EdDs in education, but their training misses key skills. Teachers aren’t taught how to interpret and then act upon standardized testing. While we might think we are going too far in standardized testing, it’s going to be a part of the system and as such, we need to train people to utilize those results and understand what they can and cannot tell us. Most PhDs and EdDs simply don’t have adequate training to teach such skills.
An interesting sidenote on how parents evaluate schools–it’s often closely related to the percent minority in the school. So if there is a high minority (black or latino) population, parents rate the schools lower.
Really, I never knew that.
( rolls eyes )
Apparently the lesson here is that it’s too tricky for you to gauge.
Okay, well take a drive around this map. What under the weird heading of “autonomy” will get the states that are obviously lagging the national average in line with the states that are obviously exceeding that average? Or are you suggesting that letting states wander in the desert, or the Ozarks if you prefer, to find their own way, is a better risk model than asking the federal government to lead the way?
Admins are supposed to teach stats to teachers? Really. . . ?
Really, that was your point, why didn’t you say so? But how much do you think the new Texas school book revisions is going to cost us? How about that for conservative education system management? The Oregon school superintendent’s wages will be spent to supporting the local communities. The Texas school book revisions will be going to support what exactly? Why is it every time you want to blame somebody, it’s some poor working schmuck? Is that just the way conservatives roll, it is in the dna?
Sorry, link missing from my previous post.
Fine and nuanced analysis. Thanks, E. D. Kain.
If they want to have a workforce that can use the tools they are given, yes. But it’s also true of the PhDs and EdDs who are teaching the administrators and teachers.
You can’t have administrators holding teachers accountable for results on a test if they cannot explain what is being measured and how to utilize that information to be a better teacher. As it stands now, virtually no one besides the test makers understand this (and some of them don’t either).
We spend an enormous amount of time testing students and gathering data to never effectively utilize it to help students.
@ArchPundit: Any thought to the idea that all this emphasis on “measuring” might be bullshit?
Maybe, but I’d also look at the remedial programs colleges have to put in place to get students’ math and English skills up to college level. Have these been growing? Short answer is yes.
Yes, but how do we answer the question, “Is our children learning?”
ED comes from a community where people think the earth is 6000 years old. I love taking advice from them on education, personally. I also think they make great climatologists.
J sub D
This is not true in my hometown of Detroit where crime actually is rampant and the public schools are failing left, right, top, bottom, front and back. This is not true in Washington D.C. either. I’m certain I could find a few more urban areas to add to the list with little effort.
People like their own congresscritters too. Even in Harlem (Rangel), LA (Waters), Alaska (Stevens) and Chicago (Rostenkowski). You can draw your own concliusions on what that says about the intelligence of Americans.
I attended a quality public school system and still have given up on the public schools. The system is overpriced and underperforms.
Public funded education- Hell yes!
Government provided education – Not only no, f*** no!
ETA – Crime has been going down for years and Americans don’t seem to realize it. It might, just maybe, have something to do with TV ratings. The slasher in Flint non-stop coverage certainly kept folks around here interested.
Ah, I see you are a PhD student in poli sci, I know you are a numbers person!
@J sub D:
Me too. And I feel like Tiger Woods apparently felt a day or so ago when he was asked, essentially, have you gone from being the world’s best golfer to being the world’s worst golfer?
He said, paraphrasing, Maybe I have, but I can take comfort in the idea that I might be able to play better than you.
It’s kind of silly to say that actually.
It’s fair to say the testing we do now is stupid and counterproductive. However, we can and do create tests that measure general skills fairly well. If you get a 30 on the ACT are you more likely to have skills to perform well in college than someone who gets a 14? Yes. There’s no real debate about that.
Should the ACT score be the sole measure of how a school is evaluated? Hell no. But it’s a measure and not a bad one.
Similar to it, many skills test of students have the ability to identify strengths and weaknesses of students just as tests have done for years. What standardized testing allows is some general measure to compare students and identify their skills to peers.
The problem comes in when we try and base evaluation of districts and teachers on only the basis of those scores and don’t use those scores to improve performance in a larger program that includes some subjective assessment, some understanding of the particular community, etc.
There’s a psychological/media theory term for what you’re describing (my school is ok, everyone else’s is shit), but I can’t find it right now. The closest I can come up with is the third person effect: that others are easily influenced by persuasion while I am not.
Such perceptions don’t mean a damn when it comes to quantifying whether schools are good or bad, or crime is up or down. But they do matter in politics, unfortunately.
@DickSpudCouchPotatoDetective: Well, it doesn’t seem that this headlong attempt to measure it has worked now has it?
You know what throwing money at a problem does? Make already in place waste not as big a problem. It’s when there’s not enough money that people look at highly educated superintendents and complain about their salaries.
You can’t have it both ways, E.D. Protestations about wanting to fund public schools followed by “even my liberal Democratic friends” complaints about – let’s face it- fairly low superintendent salaries smacks of the same old conservative tactic of deficit-scare-mongering via earmark. The problem is not superintendents. The problem is horrible pay for teachers which attracts masochists and the dregs of our workforce.* The problem is wild discrepancies in funding. The problem is a long, largely successful campaign on the part of conservatives to destroy our public school system and then change the rules so that conservative parents can use vouchers to separate their offspring from the dirty masses.
You call yourself a conservative, although I’m still not sure why, so you will be called upon here to answer for conservative sins. If you disavow everything the conservative movement stands for but still claim to be conservative, you’re a disingenuous asshole.
*I had quite a few excellent masochists as teachers throughout my public school education.
@ArchPundit: Aw dawg, I certainly don’t want to be silly!
Numbers are good used correctly.
And I primarily have somehow ended up working with Education departments, local school districts, and now at the university level evaluating student performance. Part of what I’ve found is that there are problems with graduate study in education, but there are many skilled and talented people who are never trained to utilize the information they are given.
Stuck in the Funhouse
right or wrong, like a full hit off the oxygen bong.
Maybe the entropy of things like the Texas Board of Education’s textbook selections is gaining ground over the positive effects of other measures?
I’m sure Mister Erectile Dysfunction will have some good concerned brow furrowing advice on that subject.
@ArchPundit: I’m just kiddin around with you. Good for you and your work.
@catclub: Finished half the fifth grade through college in Raleigh, NC. So I have some knowledge of southern education, though I don’t take Raleigh to be representative of rural NC.
As far as community colleges having remedial programs, I am aware of that. My point is, if you don’t learn in high school, you still have chances to learn later in life. We don’t close the door on education, like other countries do.
I’ve never talked to people in remedial community college classes about their high school experience. When I took classes at community college, when I changed careers, I figured they had a good time hanging out in high school. My observation at a distance could be wrong.
Part of the issue, if you want to get down to why community colleges have remedial classes, is the fact we segregate kids from 1st grade onwards based on their ability to perform academically.
There are advanced learning groups in a 1st grade class for advanced readers and groups, which are less advanced for less advanced readers. This split goes all the way through high school. We don’t distinguish between the education a high school graduate has based on the courses he or she took. You can take all remedial classes in high school and get a high school diploma, while someone else could take all A-P classes and get the same diploma. While the kid with all A-P classes has the academic exposure of a first year kid in college, the kid in remedial colleges probably has the academic proficiency of what the A-P kid knew in middle school.
If we really wanted to “reward excellence”, we’d weed out underperformers from the top students and segregate people into different schools based on their ability to perform. This way more official status would be given to the kid with all A-P classes, versus the kid with all remedial classes.
Of course this would just reinforce differences and hurt everyone by limiting the exposure kids get to different groups of people, but it would solve the problem of what a high school diploma is really worth.
@The Moar You Know:
Ditto on it being a tough job and the hours increase…but the pay (here at least) is 50% better. I think they’re paying us in advance for our lower life expectancy due to the stress, honestly!
How do you do this in a melting pot of a country like this with its cultural and racial and class divisions and tensions?
“Oh no you don’t, you aren’t putting my kid in the slow school!” If you get my drift.
The fact of the matter is there are differently-skilled people with different levels of intelligence. They don’t all belong in college, yet that seems to be what we’re pushing as a society.
Trying to measure our educational success as a society based on college enrollment or passing a test to graduate from high school is bullshit. But hey, it looks good on a powerpoint.
Which is why colleges look at transcripts, not diplomas, in application materials.
ETA: The real problem here is that we used to have a base of jobs for people who didn’t have what it takes to make it through college – manufacturing jobs, mostly. Those jobs are (mostly) gone, replaced mostly by service sector jobs and prison guards and the like.
The U.S. is not Lake Wobegone.
I think skilled non-college jobs may be able to make middle-class money, such as plumbers, electricians, auto-mechanics, but unskilled labor really lost the ability to earn.
Not the rubber room article. Bobo flogged that like it owed him money.
Well, my step-father – a union licensed electrician – would probably beg to differ on some of that. Worked most of his life at middle-class wages, but got sub-contracted by the big oil plants toward the end. But I get your point.
I agree with you about education almost completely.
Comrade Sock Puppet of the Great Satan
“If we really wanted to “reward excellence”, we’d weed out underperformers from the top students and segregate people into different schools based on their ability to perform. This way more official status would be given to the kid with all A-P classes, versus the kid with all remedial classes.”
That’s the old UK system, called the 11-plus. Still used in parts of the UK and parts of the Commonwealth. You give kids a test at 11 years old, and were separated into different school according to whether they passed or failed.
30% of kids who passed the test got a good education. The 70% who were told they were failures at *11 years old* got the shaft.
Sorry, I prefer the U.S. system.
my wife teaches the ‘tards in a public school (and she would kick my ass for using that term – no sense of irony or humor)
It always amazes me – we want the best football team or best baseball team and the way we get that is to segregate the best 8 year-old ballers from the average. We produce “great” ballers. But if you are advanced at math or English or science you have to settle down with the average & the under achievers. In fact you are an outcast for being good at those things – “What, you think you are better than us?”
We separate the special needs kids & that is a good thing for them but we should also separate the average, below average & above average so that they can grow at their own pace. Maybe you read at a 7th grade level but do math at a 4th grade level – does it make sense that you are force do do 6th grade work in both because you are 11 years old?
Also, one reason many colleges (including but not limited to community colleges) is because non-traditional students (which are a growing class of students if my Uni is typical) students have not been in any classes for ~20 years. If you haven’t had algebra in 25 years, it doesn’t make much sense to start at calculus
With all due respect to the fact that all communities and school districts are different. I want to share my experience as a high school teacher in this.
The Community College/High School relationship isn’t always so simple. One of my regular peeves where I work is that while the High School has worked on raising standards, Parents and students have discovered that the local community college’s remedial classes are much much easier. As a result, quite a few students simply get permission from their parents to fail several classes at the high school because they know they can make up the credits later.
That brings me to my next point. One of the reasons people like their local school is usually because it reflects the local community and their value system. If Football and parties are what parents value, then that is what schools focus on. If almost nobody in the local community cares about the school, it shows. If the community values education then that shows too. I’ll agree with E.D. to the point that legislation isn’t usually a useful tool to deal with cultural problems like this. Particularly because legislators tend to grandstand rather than actually understand the issues. *cough* NCLB *cough.
It’s pretty simple actually. What party was responsible for No Child Left Behind? That would be the party primarily interested in proving that government doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form. The party that pushed standardized testing as the end-all, be-all for education (I am told you are not a fan of standardized testing).
It’s less about federal involvement as a whole, than it is about federal involvement when Republicans are at the helm.
/taps foot impatiently.
waiting for ED to mention vouchers.
Bush was a WEC retard that didn’t get that when muslims can vote, they vote for shariah. he was also too stupid to understand basic mathematics. NCLB mandates all children in america shall perform above average.
given the bell curve of scholastic performance, the only way to do that is to lower standards.
it cant be done.
talk about magical thinking.
Texas Tax Loans
In Texas the teachers are so focused on the TAKS test…it’s all the teach. They to pass the TAKS period. Forget about teaching subjects not examined on the TAKS test. It’s a shame teachers cannot just teach. Now taxes are so high that many people need a property tax loan to pay their taxes.
This is another example of phony data taken out of context and false equivalency from right-wing hacks. E. D., your scam is showing.
There’s a BIG difference twixt education and crime.
We have incontrovertible statistics showing that crime has plummeted since the 1980s: property crime, murders, assaults, all way way down across the board.
But then when we compare American K-12 students to the students in the rest of the world using standard achievement tests, we discover that American students rank 25th globally in math out of the top 30 industrialized nations and 21st globally in science out of the top 30 industrialized nations.
That’s near the bottom.
American K-12 students scrape the bottom of the educational barrel when it comes to science and math — the subjects that really count for a global competitive economy.
Romania and Lithuania do better on standardized tests for their kids than American kids do.
America is as far behind the rest of the world educationally as we are in stem cell research and broadband speed and high-speed rail transport. America is down near the bottom of the top 30 industrialized nations in all three areas. And a higher percentage of American high school students drop out than in any of the other top 30 industrialized nations.
To put it bluntly, the statistics don’t lie. The statistics say America is shit when it comes to K-12 education, America is shit when it comes to mass transit and high-speed rail, America is shit when it comes to cutting-edge medical research, America is shit when it comes to broadband internet speed and availability.
Educationally, America is a third-world country. We’re down there with Somalia and Zaire.
And the statistics say this incontrovertibly. It’s not just one measure, standardized K-12 tests, that tell us America is shit educationally — we get evidence converging on this conclusion from many different sources. Colleges report incoming freshmen can’t read or do basic math. They have to set up remedial reading and remedial arithmetic courses for incoming high students. In 2004, 42% of incoming high school students needed to take remedial courses to get up to par for basic freshman college courses.
Only 39% of Americans believe in Darwinian macroevolution as a valid explanation for the origin of life on earth. (The rest apparently believe flying saucers or invisible sky fairies or magic unicorns created the first living cells. Or something. Who knows? With ignorance like this, who cares?) Once again, wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy out of proportion for all other industrialized nations. The only other countries in the world that have as large a creationist-believing segment of their public are the dismally ignorant third world societies sunk the deepest shadows of superstition.
Leaders in other industrialized countries are engineers or technologists. Political leaders in America are all too often ignorant superstitious kooks who work at bogus pseudo-jobs like “chiropractic.” If you want to know why Newt Gingrich spouted insane gibberish in his recent Esquite interview, here’s your answer: America’s failed K-12 education system, filled with creationists who demand “teach the controversy” (there is no controversy among scientists) and graduate kids from high school who know the Bible backwards and forwards but can’t do basic math or diagram a simple sentence.
Once again, E. D. Kain blows it.
K-12 education in America is a disaster area. The statistics prove it. Kain’s failed and futile effort to create the phony illusion that K-12 education problems in America are just problems of perception is as bogus and as laughably false as the various failed efforts to try to “prove” that America has the fastest broadband in the world (everyone knows we don’t, we’re 16th in the world and dropping fast) or the world’s best high-speed rail tranport (America has the slowest passenger rail transport, with more breakdowns and more fatal injuries, than any other industrialized nation, by far).
By the way, it’s worth noting that America’s dismal K-12 education makes itself glaringly apparently on forums like this one.
Skim through the typical Balloon Juice comments section. You’ll discover that most commenters can’t even use the English language at a fifth-grade level. Basic bonehead flubs like misuse of the contraction “it is” (it’s) for the possessive (its). Grade-school embarrassments like confusing “their” (belongs to them) with “they’re” (they are). Grotesque examples of basic illiteracy like confusing “too” with “to.” Embarrassments like being unable to spell the word “embarrassment” (typically gets misspelled “embarassment” on forums like this).
America’s shitty K-12 education not only shows up in the comments section of forums like Balloon Juice, it shows up on the front page in Kain’s confused incoherent ramblings about statistics with no concept of independent verification of statistical data. And this kind of woolyy-headed confused thinking proves common among conservatives, who are typically very poorly educated. (If the stats Kain cites are valid, America should rank high among industrialized nations internationally — we don’t, we rank near the bottom. If American kids are really getting a good K-12 education, there should be no need for extensive remedial education in college. But there is. Kain never thought to try to independently verify the stats he cited by comparing ’em with other stats because he lacks the critical thinking skills. America’s shitty K-12 education has badly damaged him.)
E. D. Kain has no more concept of the scientific method than most victims of America’s dismal K-12 education system. Kain lacks the capacity for critical thinking because shitty American schools never taught it to him. And America’s shitty education infects people all the way up to the PhD level — Newt Gingrich has a doctorate, but he obviously lacks even the most rudimentary logical reasoning skills. Given a basic syllogism with a major premise, “If A therefore B,” and a minor premise, “If B therefore C,” Gingrich can’t even from a proper conclusion: “If A therefore C.” Gingrich acknowledges polls showing that the American people overwhelming support Obama’s policies, yet he falsely concludes that Obama is “ramming through legislation” — ostensibly because the “liberal media” are distorting the facts. But the only person distorting the facts is Newt Gingrich. Health care: Americans support Obama’s reform goals. If a teacher gave Newt Gingrich a simple syllogism like “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man, therefore…?” Newt would undoubtedly conclude “Therefore all men are Socrates!”
Such are the consequences of America’s grotesquely failed K-12 education system.
And before you start hammering me because I allegedly went to private schools and enjoy a tremendous educational advantage over the rest of you, don’t even go there. I went to a shitty crumbling high school full of incompetent teachers. They refused to teach calculus in 11th grade so I taught myself. They refused to offer Greek or Latin courses so I taught myself. Troglodyte teachers tried to beat inquisitiveness and creativity out of me and I stood up in class and told them to shut up and back off, because when it came to educating their students, they couldn’t hack it, so the students had to take over the slack for themselves. When you tell a teacher who criticizes you for doing independent work Hic ego barbarus sum quia non intelligor illis and he doesn’t know what it means, it tends to shut the ignorant motherfucker up.
Students in America can give themselves a decent education. But it’s unlikely. It takes tremendous strength of character to bulldoze through the K-12 educational bureaucracy to do it, and you have to fight the K-12 administrators like a wild animal and walk right over teachers trying to stop you at every turn. Most students won’t do that. Plus, that was decades ago — today, a student who tells a teacher to shut up and get out of hi/r face so s/he can get back to teaching hi/rself calculus would probably be tased by school security guards. If I were a high school student today I would undoubtedly be beaten, dragged out in handcuffs and pepper-sprayed by sadistic screaming cops called by the school principal because I disobeyed the teacher and disrupted the classroom by pointing out tht the teacher is spouting bullshit.
High schools today have turned into prisons. Drug-sniffing dogs, armed guards, razor wire, chain-linked fences, camera surveillance, electrically-locked doors, you have to show picture ID to a camera to get buzzed inside…your typical high school today is like Folsom during lockdown. Inmates in Folsom don’t get a stellar education. Why should we expect American junior high and high school students to learn anything inside a mini-prison misnamed a high school?
@DougJ: Uhm – editing a duplicate comment since the delete feature isn’t working…huh…
@DougJ: Great minds and all that jazz…
@mclaren: I think your ranking data is actually almost entirely meaningless but I’ll go into that more in a later post.
@Midnight Marauder: Actually NCLB was a bipartisan program, dreamed up during the Clinton admin but implemented under Bush.
Here in Utah, we recently (last year) had a similar large-school-district breakup, with similar effect. I was mostly against it (but unable to vote, it was just south of a boundary line). The district that voted for it is heavily Republican. Anecdotally speaking, it’s not an R/D line. Of course I have no actual data (only the singular of data, “anecdote” :-) ).
As a thinking-type D :-) I believed there was merit in both sides of the argument (local control, vs additional overhead) but believed the proposed split would work out poorly. So far, it has in fact worked out poorly.
@DougJ: Hey could you elaborate on that? Link? I thought there was likely more than one side to the rubber room story, but it’s a bit old now and I haven’t found any decent retorts.
This is a great post. Parental control and environment only account for so many factors. There are a good many kids in the midwest who have never seen a rap performance and parents are good law abiding citizens and their children grow up to be gangbangers in LA – you never know. Thanks for making a intelligible argument.
I think your point here about poor metrics is very valid and helps make the whole discussion understandably fraught. That the slip in educational rankings is partly due to “other countries catching up” should be acknowledged but has limited utility.
I understand the reflexive suspicion you’re encountering and while it’s misplaced in your case/these instances, like many learned responses it is potentially both rational and illogical. The decades of open warfare against public education in the US has left many with a justifiable feeling of being besieged. Logically Breitbart could be telling the truth but it is quite rational to discount him as a lying sack of shit.