Nationalizing education

Abolish local school districts (except for the 20 largest cities and the 50 states), advocates former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner in the Wall Street Journal.  Then establish national standards for reading, math, science and social studies with a test to match. Gerstner also wants to set national standards for teacher certification, pay teachers based on their students’ performance and extend the school day and year.

Gerstner’s proposals would take the public out of public education, writes Deborah Meier on Bridging Differences.

Don’t link national standards to the abolition of local control, responds Flypaper.

The state of Hawaii is one big school district. As I understand it — Hawaiians, feel free to chime in — it hasn’t worked well.

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Comments

  1. Mark Roulo says:

    From his proposal:

    Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula.

    Because … you know … the larger school districts (New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, …) tend to produce better results than the smaller school districts.

    I must be missing something here. The idea is to make *all* public education more like the districts that have a reputation for performing the worst?

    -Mark Roulo

  2. Homeschooling Granny says:

    Gerstner, like many others, overlooks a very significant variable: parents. Regardless of standards, tests, teacher certification and pay, where parents support education, children do well. Has any one compared the schools in which a high percentage of parents teach at home, looking over papers and filling in concepts their children have missed, hiring tutors or sending their children to learning centers with those schools where few do these things? Some parents take over the whole thing and educate at home. No matter what is pumped into schools, kids whose education is supported at home will come out ahead. Distancing education from parents and the communities that support them has not helped and it will not.

    Homeschooling Granny

    For years we have had as our goal the educating of all the children of all the people, but this can not be achieved unless we also educate all the parents of all the children as to their responsibility for the education of their children. –Lewis Alderman (1872-1965)

  3. What a deeply insightful and forward-thinking person that Lou Gerstner is.

    I’m sure that national standards for academics, with matching tests, and national teacher certification standards wouldn’t become massive, political footballs that would end up producing results which would satisfy no one but would satisfy the educational needs of kids the least.

    I mean, what are the chances of something like that happening?

  4. His objectives seemed good. They were:

    1) Set high academic standards for all of our kids, supported by a rigorous curriculum.

    2) Greatly improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms, supported by substantially higher compensation for our best teachers.

    3) Measure student and teacher performance on a systematic basis, supported by tests and assessments.

    4) Increase “time on task” for all students; this means more time in school each day, and a longer school year.

    He didn’t provide a convincing bridge between the goals and the means. Perhaps the brevity of the article prohibited this. Unfortunately there was no link to anything more substantial either.

  5. 1) One standard for all kids? It isn’t possible to set a standard which all children will find rigorous. If there’s one standard, the best you could produce would be 50% for whom it’d be a reasonable goal, 25% for whom it would be ridiculously easy, and 25% for whom it would be out of reach.

    2) Improve the quality of teaching? Just paying teachers more won’t improve the quality of their teaching.

    3) See Joanne’s post about the state of chemistry instruction in Great Britain. The British have been testing on a national basis, using a set curriculum, for decades.

    4) More time in a dysfunctional environment does not necessarily produce better results. You can’t use KIPP and other charters as an argument that more time automatically produces better results, because most of them use the time well, for targeted tutoring.

  6. As far as the objectives go:

    1) This objective does not say one standard for all students. I’m not sure he even meant that in the means statements, but at least its not an unfair assumption.

    2) Higher pay was a support not the primary objective. I suppose that he could have left the more pay part to the section on means, but I’m guessing he thought that important enough to elevate it to the objectives.

    3) This objective states nothing about national standards, once again that was in the means not the objectives.

    4) You’re right, point 4 doesn’t stand on its own. It requires points 1 through 3 to be effective which is why they were included.

  7. I like Gerstner’s idea, from an efficiency standpoint, if nothing else. It just astounds me how much effort we waste as a nation, each one of thousands of district laboriously devising its own blueprint for education, draft after draft, year after year. Thousands of humans, millions of hours, involved in reinventing the wheel over and over. And more often than not, it’s a pretty crappy wheel (Palo Alto, Greenwich and Bethesda perhaps excepted).

    A better idea: assemble a team of sages (Hirsch, Ravitch, etc.), who have studied successful public ed systems (Finland, France, Taiwan) to set forth a grand, shining, Platonic Ideal of an education plan for all the well-meaning but under-resourced and, frankly, somewhat benighted local communities to use and benefit from. Save effort and improve education in one stroke.

  8. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    Where has Gerstner been? Chicago has one massive school district; it doesn’t seem to have worked too well for them.

    I like Ponderosa’s suggestion of looking at successful systems such as those in Finland. But also, Americans seem to forget that while our K-12 grade schools are atrocious, the university system is a world-beater that many up and coming nations in Asia are rushing to emulate. Care to guess what one of the biggest reasons for that is?

    (whispers) *competition, even between government funded institutions, along with competition with private schools*

    This idea was kicked around very briefly in San Antonio, which is situated in Bexar County, which has 16 separate school districts IIRC. The justification? It would equitably spread the property tax receipts. After all, when you just throw money at schools, they just magically get better!!! Needless to say, this idea went away rather quickly and died an unlamented death.

  9. Where has Gerstner been?

    IBM, which explains his perspective. I’ve got a real problem bringing the IBM culture to public schools because, in my current job, I’ve experienced it as a client. When companies bring IBM in as an IT partner, they bring in a partner that puts the IBM culture and need for centralized control above the needs of the company paying the money on the contract. Trying to get test servers set up has always been a nightmare, and the IBM software they insist is the “right” solution often isn’t.

    The problem in with a lot of schools is not that they lack a centralized direction, it’s that they’re out of touch with the challenges they face on a local level because they lack leadership that is perceptive enough to get what those challenges are. Moving leadership up the ladder and farther away from those challenges is moving it exactly in the wrong direction.

  10. I have nothing against efficiency, but since Gerstner didn’t claim savings would be in the $10’s of billions or $100’s of billions I’ll assume that he meant single digit billions of dollars. That would probably be enough to pay teachers in CA about $100,000/year with nothing left over for the rest of the country. If he wants people to buy into his means, he better sell it better.

    Some calculations:

    Seems that CA has about 300,000 classroom teachers in public schools, here’s the link:

    http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Articles/Article.asp?title=Teachers%20in%20California

    So assuming the average teacher makes about $65,000 – I think that’s high –, that would be another $35,000 to increase teacher pay to $100,000. So just for CA that would be about 10.5 billion dollars.

    But then again I believe he said only the best teachers would make that salary. So let’s just assume that means 10% of teachers. So that would be $1 billion for California. And by the 2006 census data California is about 12% (36/299) of the United States population, so making a very simplified assumption that would be about $8.3 billion for the entire country. If that 10% means something I’d sure want access to those teachers for my kids.

  11. 1) Set high academic standards for all of our kids, supported by a rigorous curriculum.

    Which will happen because the proponents of every idiotic edu-fad of the past six or eight decades won’t try to have input to the standards-setting and curriculum-development process. Similarly, every group with a political ax to grind will nobly eschew monkeying with the process as well.

    2) Greatly improve the quality of teaching in our classrooms, supported by substantially higher compensation for our best teachers.

    Yes, a vast, national hierarchy will improve the quality of teaching by decreeing that it happen. And the concept and particulars of differential pay? Piece o’ cake!

    3) Measure student and teacher performance on a systematic basis, supported by tests and assessments.

    Tests and assessments which will emerge from a process in which several politically powerful constituencies will make certain they have a say.

    4) Increase “time on task” for all students; this means more time in school each day, and a longer school year.

    Oh what’s the point? To a man with a hammer every problem looks like a nail and to an amateur authoritarian every problem’s solvable via the cracking of a whip.

  12. Regardless of standards, tests, teacher certification and pay, where parents support education, children do well.

    And this was even more true back when there were no schools at all. From which I deduce the rule that the more incompetent schools are, the more vital parental support is to children’s success.

    However, it appears that some parents, for a variety of reasons, do not support education. The original rationale for government funding of public schools, and for compulsory schooling laws, was to provide an education to those whose parents do not support it. And there is I think a strong policy argument for making that education as effective as possible, taking into account the parental lack of support.

    For years we have had as our goal the educating of all the children of all the people, but this can not be achieved unless we also educate all the parents of all the children as to their responsibility for the education of their children. –Lewis Alderman (1872-1965)

    I’m fine with this, but if it’s the responsibility of parents to educate their children then we should shut down the schools and stop wasting money on them.

  13. Physics Teacher says:

    Some points:

    1) A CEO’s opinion doesn’t count any more or less than anyone else’s.

    2) I’m all for a national set of standards. Every mature profession has standardization and education should be no exception. Would you be healthier if doctors measured blood pressure in a different way in New York than doctors in Wisconsin? Or if 140/90 was considered high in California but pretty darn good in Texas? I see no reason for every hole in the wall district doing their own thing.

    3) Large districts in large cities don’t necessarily do bad because they’re big. They usually deal with the worst students (and their parents) and the most crime. Would things magically improve because we turned big districts into a bunch of small ones? I believe that “I showered the world with a crappy OS” Bill Gates already tried something similar.

    4) The way to improve education is to remove education schools and their nitwit professors from the debate and to keep these people from setting standards and strategies. The village idiot has a better grip on education than the education school professors I’ve met.

  14. Allen,

    So does that mean you think public education is an oxymoron? Or are you thinking of alternative objectives?

  15. Aloha, all, from Hawaii,

    Louis Gerstner writes from profound ignorance of his subject.
    District Size
    a) Across the US, the coefficient of correlation (%20K+dist, score) is negative (around -0.4) where “%20K+dist” is the fraction of total State-level enrollment assigned to districts over 20,000 (or 15,000 depending on which year of the Digest of Education Statistics you use) and “score” is NAEP 4th or 8th grade Reading or Math score. Across the US, the coefficient of correlation (%top 130, score) is negative, where “%top130” is the fraction of total State-level enrollment assigned to one or another of the nation’s top 130 largest school districts. Across the US, the coefficient of correlation (mean didt, score) is negative, where “meandist.” is the State-level mean district size. I have used Reading proficiency scores, Reading percentile scores, Math percentime scores, Math proficiency scores, Math Mean scores. I have used Math composite scores, Numbers and Operations subtest scores, and Algebra and Functions subtest scores. The result is always the same: smaller is better.
    b) Across the US, the coefficient of correlation between the above measures of district size and per pupil budget is positive. Large districts cost more, per pupil, to operate. Caroline Hoxby has compared per pupil costs in urban polities with several small districts to per pupil costs in urban polities with large unified districts and found the result (larger => more expensive) holds.

    Standards
    “Standards” are a distraction. A standard is a unit of measurement. A yardstick is a standard. Academic standards are to intellectual growth what meaduring rods are to physical growth. Platinum measuring rods will not make children taller. academic standards will not make children smarter.

    Merit Pay
    “Merit pay” is an invitation to a protrated, unproductive argument. We have unambiguous measures of student performance in few subjects. Will Art and History teachers not qualify for consideration? Is merit pay only for Math, Chemistry, and Physics teachers and elementary English teachers (we can measure vocabulary)? Does no Special Ed teacher ever qualify? Read Myron Lieberman’s discussion of the issue in __The Educational Morass__. Unions oppose merit pay and principals do not want the added work and dissension it would bring.

    Time on Task
    Compulsory, unpaid labor is slavery, black or white, male or female, young or old. The fundamental variable which determines overall system performance is student motivation. Compulsion kills motivation. Einstein opposed compulsory attendance at school. Gandhi opposed compulsory attendance at school. More (compelled) time on task means less motivation, more drug abuse, more vandalism, more violence.

    Let’s lock Mr Gerstner away for 12 years and see how he likes it.

  16. btw, the Hawaii DOE operates one of the worst school systems in the US. By some measures, we are dead last.

  17. There’s a difference between standards of good practice and a single command and control bureaucracy. Education desperately needs the former to improve effectiveness. Good teachers have figured out what to do through experience, but new teachers are left to experiment on their classes until they either get it right or settle in to being bad teachers.

    Moreover, without standards of good practice, administrators and parents can’t assess whether teachers are doing a good job in any logical sort of way. This leads to disengaged parents (who are such because the school is turned into a “black box” by teachers and administrators who don’t want scrutiny) and capricious administrators who see fit to use any sort of power to run the school.

    What public education absolutely does not need is a single, centralized bureaucracy without standards of good practice. All that will result in is a self-centered, self-perpetuating monster that shares many cultural similarities with IBM. Maybe that’s why Gerstner is proposing what he is, but it’s simply the wrong solution.

  18. I say start with a national standard on the teaching of biology. That’ll go well.

  19. Another little detail. The executive branch of our government is constrained by that neat little feature known as “checks and balances.” The president and the governors of the fifty states could all agree they wanted to effect this change. The largest effect would be the immediate laughter from the legislatures and judges of the states.

  20. Leave aside the infantile power fantasies of commissar wannabe Louis Gerstner.
    What ever happened to federalism?
    The President of the US exercises legitimate authority over three K-12 school systems, the Department of Interion BIA schools, the US DOD schools (for dependents of military employees overseas), and the US State Department’s Embassy schools (for State Department employees oveseas). All the President has to do to inject competition into the US K-12 education industry is…
    1) Require that these schools develop a sequence of exams which satisfy course requirements at each grade level.
    2) Require that they license independent companies and schools to administer these exams to anyone who applies.
    3) Require that these schools grant credit to anyone who passes these tests, at any age, at any time of year.
    4) Require that all US agencies recognize diplomas earned through the exam process.

    Let competition between Sylvan Learning Centers, the Kumon Institute, and the University of Phoenix drive the cost of a K-12 education down to the cost of books and proctoring exams.

    The President exercises legitimate authority over five post-secondary institutions, the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, the Air Force Academy in Boulder, Colorado, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, and the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. All the President has to do to make college affordable is…
    1) Require that these schools develop a sequence of exams which satisfy course requirements for some limited set of undergraduate majors.
    2) Require that these schools license independent companies and schools to administer these exams to anyone who applies.
    3) Require that these schools grant credit to anyone who passes these tests, at any age, at any time of year.
    4) Require that all US agencies recognize degrees earned through the exam process.
    Let competition between Sylvan Learning Centers, the Kumon Institute, and the University of Phoenix drive the cost of a college degree down to the cost of books and proctoring exams.

    If school is not an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, why not? If it is fraud for a mechanic to charge for the repair of a functional motor and if it is fraud for a physician to charge for the treatment of a healthy patient, then it is fraud for a school district to bill taxpayers for the instruction of a student who does not need our help.

  21. Our curriculum is already standardized enough. If we all agreeded on this idea of nationalizing curriculum, youd think we weren’t trying to teach our children to grow up, be unique and change the future, but to do what ur told, be the same as everyone else, and follow the crowd. That sounds like a pretty bleak future for our younger generations…

    And the idea of paying teachers substantially better for doing a better job and having better grades in their classrooms is not a good idea. Someone could easily just give their students better grades so they get paid more.

    A teacher should love teaching because of the satisfaction they get from actually teaching their students and helping them succeed. Not for money.

  22. Physics Teacher says:

    Malcolm’s got way, WAY, too much blind faith in corporations.

    The amount of waste that goes on in corporations is astronomical. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it. Corporations are simply very good at creating the illusion that they’re so efficient. Entrusting education to “competition” is not the answer.

  23. Mark Roulo says:

    Malcolm’s got way, WAY, too much blind faith in corporations.

    Malcom isn’t trusting the corporations at all. He is trusting that the exams will be good enough that they can’t be gamed. If this is true, how efficient or inefficient isn’t anyone’s concern except for the people running the corporation. The customers would care about *cost* and results, but internal efficiency wouldn’t be an issue for the customers.

    If the exams *can* be gamed, then everything falls apart…

    Malcom is also implicitly trusting that parents will make a reasonable price/quality tradeoff for their children’s education.

    -Mark Roulo

  24. Entrusting education to “competition” is not the answer.

    Entrusting education to “competition” is a better answer than entrusting it to a large monopoly. We’ve already seen what large monopoly school districts like Chicago and D.C. turn into, and it’s not pretty. Like I said earlier, I’ve seen what the command and control culture at IBM looks like, and it’s not pretty.

    Parents need choice, and communities need local control of their schools. Organizations function better when they have smaller budgets and are more connected to stakeholders. The best large companies function as a group of small, agile units. IBM is an example of what the best companies don’t do, and Gerstner wants to turn the nations public schools into a series of IBMs. Not smart.

  25. I think nationalizing the curriculum would be a good idea because it would be easier and would ensure that the sudents learn what they need to know for a test that they have to take. maybe not so much nationalizing teachers pay based on how well they perform. How will that be monitored? Will someone sit in the classroom and determine how well the teacher is doing? Or will there be a survey for the students to fill out? Maybe not so much with the teachers pay, but definately the curriculum should be nationalized.

  26. Thanks, Mark.

    I have more faith in competition than in monopolies, that is all. US States are corporations. Counties, cities, and incorporated townships are corporations. Unions are 501-c(5) corporations. Independent schools are 501-c(3) corporations. Churches are corporations.

    The only standard that might improve the US education industry is the parent standard: “Do I want my child in that school?” The most effective form of accountability which humans have yet devised is the ability of unhappy customers to take their business elsewhere.

    Rachel,

    I don’t think you intended your comment as a criticism of my proposal, but of Mr. Gerstner’s proposal. I would not make any curriculum mandatory. I recommend that the Executive branch offer three sets of tests (for K-12) as escape options.

  27. Physics Teacher says:

    Let competition between Sylvan Learning Centers, the Kumon Institute, and the University of Phoenix drive the cost of a K-12 education down to the cost of books and proctoring exams.

    This is the typical battle cry of radical privatizers. Driving down costs to some minimal level is possible only if it’s efficient. Privatizers assume that business runs at maximum efficiency and that any and all government entities run at maximum inefficiency.

  28. Privatizers assume that business runs at maximum efficiency…

    I make no such assumption. I know that it does not take twelve years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers would be (is, in totalitarian countries).

    If my proposal is unrealistic, the current recipients of the taxpayers’ $500 billion+ per year K-12 subsidy have nothing to fear.

  29. Privatizers assume that business runs at maximum efficiency and that any and all government entities run at maximum inefficiency.

    Nice strawman. Personally, I’d like to see privitization of schools, but not out of the belief that all corporations are maximally efficient and all government is maximally inefficient. (Note that I’ve been pointing out the problems with large companies like IBM.) The problem with federal solution to problems is that the federal government has a severe information deficit in solving local problems. They’re much more likely to propose the same solution for different cities with different problems.

    What needs to happen, like I’ve been saying, is that education as a profession has to develop professional standards and practices based on sound research and practical experience. Along with this, control needs to be moved down to the community level so communities can make sure they’re getting the schools they need, whether those are private, charter, or public.

  30. Physics Teacher says:

    Dear Malcolm,

    You may not remember, but you and I danced (and danced, and danced) on another forum regarding education a few years back. Your entire point was that public education is inherently bad, and unfixable, seemingly only because it’s public.

    At some point I mentioned that the FAA is a government monopoly, and yet its employees safely deliver tens of thousands of flights safely each day. You insisted that some kind of “competion” between assorted corporations/entities would achieve the same, or better. You never specified how. In light of current free market screwups, I doubt anyone would feel better about rent-a-flight-controllers from an assortment of companies.

    You “know” it doesn’t take 12 grand per year to teach a kid? If you and your wife both work you’ll spend that much just for someone to watch your kid in a year. If your wife stays home, you’re sacrificing her salary.

    Most vocational training is done more effectively on the job? They did this in the Dark Ages too. Many kids today can’t even read a ruler, but we’ll just wait for someone to train them on the job.

  31. Mark Roulo says:

    Many kids today can’t even read a ruler, but we’ll just wait for someone to train them on the job.

    I hate it when I can’t get the point of a post even though I know all the words.

    Sigh.

    Is the comment above supposed to be in *support* of public education? Or an argument against vocational education? Or what?

    -Mark Roulo

  32. Physics Teacher says:

    Mark,

    Yes, this is in support of public education. I firmly believe that students should graduate from high school with basic skills so they will be able to adapt to whatever challenges they face.

    Based on our past exchanges Malcolm stated that compulsory education is slavery, so students presumably would learn to read when they themselves decided it might be a good idea. Perhaps when they get their first job the boss will teach them to read.

  33. Physics Teacher –

    Air traffic control is a poor choice to bring up when discussing an education monopoly. ATC has to be a single, unified system because it’s responsible for tracking and traffic planning of objects moving too fast to self-coordinate. Also, the need fulfilled by ATC in any given location is rather uniform.

    Neither is true with education. Richmond, CA is a distressed community where kids often have trouble mastering basic skills. Just nine miles (and one bridge) west of Richmond is Corte Madera, a prosperous community where most kids are served well by the schools. In addition, there is no need for clockwork coordination between schools in different communities. Both of these factors point to keeping control local and having a variety of services.

    Finally, even though it is a monopoly in the US, ATC is still a small, flat organization that stays close to immediate needs, something the large school districts proposed by Gerstner would *not* be.

  34. FAA is a government monopoly, and yet its employees safely deliver tens of thousands of flights safely each day. You insisted that some kind of “competion” between assorted corporations/entities would achieve the same, or better.

    Link? I do not remember this. Sounds unlikely to me.

    Air traffic controlers are traffic cops. The public benefits from uniform rules of the road. The education industry is not a close analog. Uniformity in the education industry is no virtue, given the wide range of students’ interests and abilities and the wide range of career paths a modern economy offers.

    I make less of the public/private distinction than most. The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality. Unions, even “public sector” unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. We are all public citizens and private individuals. People do not become more intelligent, better-informed, more altruistic, or more capable (except in their access to violence) when they enter the State’s employ. Quite the contrary; guns attract thugs and Hitler wannabes (like Louis Gerstnr).

  35. Ponderosa says:

    I would love to hear the libertarian/free market fundamentalists on this site explain why school systems in Japan, Finland, France, and all the other nations whose kids score so well on international tests, manage to educate their kids so well despite the fact that they are, gasp, public monopolies.

  36. Catch Thirty-Thr33 says:

    In the case of Japan, Ponderosa, I would suggest looking at the culture of the country. Japan is a place where a very high emphasis is placed on education. This isn’t the case in the United States. If it were so, please explain why in such levels such as high school, the emphasis is on anything other than learning (often on the theory, I suspect, that the whole teaching thing is a college problem, not high school, where the emphasis is on athletics, extracurricular activities, and making sure the kids have a GREAT social environment).

    I would also suspect the same for Finland and France as well. I also note that each country is a Nanny State with taxation levels most Americans would find abhorrent (and still can’t save Japan from having a national debt 194% of GDP, FAR worse than that even of the United States).

  37. Ashley Sroka says:

    Abolish school districts? Well, explain to me how sports will thrive? If they don’t have other districts to compete against, then there are no teams… and if you think about it, no teams = no national sports, either. I would hate to be a student in a “nationalized education” without local school districts. I wouldn’t know what it was like to be a part of a public school and yes, even to know what it feels like for a levy to fail. Yes, levy’s shouldn’t be the only things that fund schools and the national government really does need to step up the funding of schools. But abolishing them completely? That would take so many dollars and so many years. Changing the standards on teaching certifications would mean that every teacher may need to re-attend college (paying money that they don’t have and causing even MORE people to be in debt!) and then it would just be controversy.

    I like the idea of national standards, however. Taking out school districts to me is just bad news. But I know for a fact that the British schools run off a national curriculum, and they definitely have better graduation rates than we do in the US. We could have schools follow a national curriculum and a national test, they do so successfully. And doing so wouldn’t require overhauling teaching certifications either. It would be a change to what classes are required, for how long, and the material that is taught. It would also provide that the national government plays a bigger role in children’s education, which, as I’ve said, is time for them to do.

    And I mean, come on, if one state doesn’t work, who in their right mind feels that the rest of the United States would work?

    I’m for a national curriculum, but not so much this way of nationalizing education.

  38. I would love to hear the libertarian/free market fundamentalists on this site explain why school systems in Japan, Finland, France, and all the other nations whose kids score so well on international tests, manage to educate their kids so well despite the fact that they are, gasp, public monopolies.

    Japan has a thriving market in tutorial institutions (juku). Dunno much about Finland and France. “All…are public monopolies…” misrepresents the case. 90% of Hong Kong students take subsidies to independent schools. I conjecture that the remaining 10% are sp-ed and/or delinquent. 90% of Irish students take tax subsidies to independent schools, according to OECD __Education at a Glance__. Close to 70% of Dutch students and close to 65% of Belgian students take tax subsidies to independent schools. Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, Singapore and some Canadian provinces subsidize options outside the government school system.

    Gerard Lassibile and Lucia Navarro Gomez
    “Organization and Efficiency of Educational Systems: some empirical findings”, pg. 16,
    __Comparative Education__ , Vol. 36 #1, 2000, Feb.
    “Furthermore, the regression results indicate that countries where private education is more widespread perform significantly better than countries where it is more limited. The result showing the private sector to be more efficient is similar to those found in other contexts with individual data (see, for example, Psucharopoulos, 1987; Jiminez, et. al, 1991).
    This finding should convince countries to reconsider policies that reduce the role of the private sector in the field of education”.

  39. Ponderosa –

    What I’ve noticed in all the countries you mention is a coherent national curriculum. Students and schools have a standard for which they can aim. The US doesn’t have this, and even in those states that do, like California, the standards are undermined by mush-brained teachers who buy the ed school line about putting activism and social justice before content and achievement.

    In addition to this is the unwillingness of many American educators to hold kids to any objective standard of behavior or academic achievement in the name of self-esteem. This is a disease we share with England, and the fast-slipping standards and achievement seen there are a sign of what is to come here.

    To have what you have in France, Finland, and Japan, you need a fairly strong set of social standards along with an explicit commitment to educational achievement. In addition, it would be worth examining the educational systems of these countries from an organizational standpoint. I doubt they allow the same distance of control to occur that we do here.

  40. Physics Teacher says:


    standards are undermined by mush-brained teachers who buy the ed school line about putting activism and social justice before content and achievement.

    The mush-brains are usually the administrators — people who swallow the ed school trash hook, line, and sinker.


    In addition to this is the unwillingness of many American educators to hold kids to any objective standard of behavior or academic achievement in the name of self-esteem

    This isn’t the necessarily the teachers’ call.


    In addition, it would be worth examining the educational systems of these countries from an organizational standpoint. I doubt they allow the same distance of control to occur that we do here

    Go to an education school. Say “kids in Singapore kick US ass in math. Discuss”. It’s very unlikely that anyone in the room will even contemplate asking questions like “what textbooks do they use in Singapore to teach math?”. Instead, the discussion will immediately focus on money. How to get money to train teachers in OUR methods (which suck). How to get money for laptops because kids can master “technology” while (not) mastering addition. Rinse. Repeat until class ends.

    America’s education problems begin and end in the education schools.

  41. Physics Teacher says:


    Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Chile, Singapore and some Canadian provinces subsidize options outside the government school system.

    My cousin’s from Poland. He went to a vocational high school where he took apart motorcycle engines. Yet he’s better educated than many average Americans.

    His wife attended regular schools in Warsaw.

    Their son is a top student here in the US in a very good school district. When he was in the tenth grade he was taking 11th grade math. His mother took a look at what passes for 11th grade math here and said that this is what kids in Poland learn in the 8th grade.

    We have friends from Korea. It’s amazing how much they know compared to people who grew up here. Yet they never mentioned ever going to anything like juku.

  42. Physics Teacher says:


    Uniformity in the education industry is no virtue, given the wide range of students’ interests and abilities and the wide range of career paths a modern economy offers

    Really. So if math programs like Singapore Math and Saxon Math outperform programs like Everyday Math there’s absolutely no virtue in standardizing and using programs that work. Programs that are supported by math and engineering professors. Programs that work well in other countries. Some students apparently “need” crappy math programs which their local school districts will lovingly give them.

    Same with reading programs. Whole language has been an abomination based on flawed assumptions. But let’s let school districts use them on unsuspecting parents and children. Some of them may choose to become ed school professors in this modern economy and they’ll need to be familiar with the snake oil that will become their livelyhood.

    And what happens when a teacher has transfer students who are completely unprepared to deal with the class material because they’re from a district that “chose” crappy programs because their students “needed” them?

  43. I agree with Allen. I don’t have much faith that the government can define one strong curriculum for all. The goals would look like NAEP. If you have just one curriculum, it will be weak, and it will probably be a low-end, cut-off curriculum that everyone has to pass. Like NCLB, the minimum becomes the maximum. The focus has to be on the high end, not the low end.

    I would rather see the College Board define their own, high level standards and tests for K-8, designed to properly prepare kids (content and skill-wise) for the AP tracks in high school. The International Baccalaureate Organization could do the same thing for their high school IB programs. Something has to be done about the low and fuzzy expectations of K-8 schools. The answer is not NCLB and it’s not a return to the world of no accountability.

    I’m a big proponent of unfettered charter schools and choice. Parents have to be given control to allow them to meet their own educational goals right now. They cannot wait for slow, statistical improvement towards a minimal goal. K-8 schools could do a lot to solve this problem, but I’m not optimistic. Larger school districts could offer choices in curricula, selected by the parents. They could offer a choice of TERC and Singapore Math. It doesn’t happen. K-8 educators are educational and social development dictators. Everyone is stuck with all-kids-are-equal, low expectation, low academics curricula. (Just try to find a K-8 school web site that has the word academics on their home page.) Once choice happens in high school, it’s too late. It becomes tracking and not choosing.

    The educational and philosophical stranglehold of K-8 education has to be broken. Parents have to have control. If schools can’t even offer the simple choice of Singapore Math versus TERC, then school choice is the only reasonable solution. It’s no guarantee, because some private schools and charter schools stink too. That’s why high end standards and tests also have to be defined for K-8. They don’t provide a guarantee either, but parents would then have some hard numbers based on high end expectations to base their decision. Our schools are “High Performing” on the low cut-off state standards, but they still use Everyday Math and few kids are properly prepared for the AP calculus track in high school. Many think our schools provide an excellent education. It’s just excellent in getting most kids over the low cut-off, which is not too difficult in a high SES community.

    The focus has to change from low cut-off scores to high end standards. The focus has to change from group statistics to individual educational opportunity. Parents have to be given real control and choice, not told to work on the times table with their kids at home.

  44. Physics Teacher says:

    I don’t have much faith that the government can define one strong curriculum for all.

    Why not? If the government has defined airline procedures — a far more complex problem — then why can’t it happen for education, which isn’t rocket science.

    If you have just
    one curriculum, it will be weak,

    Why would this have to be true?

    Like NCLB,

    NCLB is just an excuse to justify privatization of
    education.

    the minimum
    becomes the maximum. The focus has to be on the
    high end, not the low end.

    Why not have something like A-level, B-level, and
    so forth.

    I know an American who lived in England (a long
    time ago) and passed their A-level exams. He
    said he hadn’t studied so hard before or since.

    A national SET of standards doesn’t imply one single yardstick.

    I would rather see the College Board define their
    own, high level standards and tests for K-8,
    designed to properly prepare kids (content and
    skill-wise)

    Fine, but why not make public schools follow?

    NCLB and it’s not a return to the world of no
    accountability.

    In order to have accountability you need a uniform
    way of measuring something. Meaning standardized
    tests.

    I’m a big proponent of unfettered charter schools
    and choice.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why so many
    people are so obssessed with choice. I’ve met
    many people from many countries that gave them
    next to no choice in the education and they’re
    fine.

    My mother was educated in post war Poland when the
    country was little more than rubble. There were
    barely pots to piss in, let alone “choice”, and
    yet my mother’s math skills are far better than
    those of many of my students who grew up with
    countless choices. And my mother is one of those
    people who always hated math.

    Parents have to be given control to
    allow them to meet their own educational goals
    right now.

    Right. All parents — working two or three jobs
    — have the wherewithall to evaluate math and
    reading programs.

    THe people who came out with Everyday Math and
    other crap have a product to sell and will use
    whatever Madison Avenue techniques to do it. You
    expect parents to slog through all the obfuscation
    and misdirection? Sure.

    They cannot wait for slow, statistical

    Another reason for failure. Impatience. If
    previous generations were patient and methodical,
    we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    They could offer a choice of TERC and Singapore
    Math.

    Why should schools offer a choice of bad
    programs????? Do you want your doctor to openly
    give you a “choice” of a medication that was
    proven ineffective or harmful?

    Everyone is stuck with
    all-kids-are-equal,

    Typical ed-school thinking.

    Math is math. The
    English language is the English language.
    Canada is located North of the US. None of these
    things changes because of the uniqueness of a kid.

    low
    expectation, low academilcs curricula.

    Of course. We’re all too busy trying to tailor
    curriculum to the “needs” of every individual.
    What are these “needs” supposed to be anyway?

    If schools can’t even offer the simple choice
    of Singapore Math versus TERC, then school choice
    is the only reasonable solution.

    No, it’s another mindless solution.

    It’s no guarantee, because some private
    schools and charter schools stink too.

    Of course. Their administration was
    indoctrinated in the same ed schools and they buy
    into the same crap philosophies.

    That’s why high end standards and tests also
    have to be defined for K-8.

    Finally, something I agree with.

    but parents would then have some hard numbers
    based on high end expectations to base their
    decision.

    Good grief. How ’bout using the numbers to shut down bad teaching philosophies? Project Follow Through gave us hard evidence for the ineffectiveness of various constructivist methods. That’s what number should be used for.

  45. So if math programs like Singapore Math and Saxon Math outperform programs like Everyday Math there’s absolutely no virtue in standardizing and using programs that work.

    Actually, when it comes to how the content is taught, there are only a certain number of logically coherent, well-proven ways to do it. Teaching, if it is to be taken seriously as a profession, must develop these ways as its standard practice, much as doctors have standard practices for doing things.

    Physics teacher, you and I are in absolute agreement that the American system of education schools is the big impediment towards doing this. I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, a marginally-proficient high school graduate has a better shot of being a good teacher *before* going to ed school than after.

    Where communities need flexibility is how to implement good instruction. Trying to get good teachers into inner-city Oakland, for instance, would require a lot more pay and other incentives than would trying to get good teachers in a nice suburb like Mill Valley. Budgets, organizational structure, class sizes, and school culture are all best left at the local level based on community needs. Curriculum and how to teach it should become standard practice based on research and experience.

  46. Physics Teacher says:

    profession, must develop these ways as its
    standard practice, much as doctors have standard
    practices for doing things.

    Of course. Unfortunately, I’ve come across people in teaching who believe that there are no standard practices in medicine (or engineering), believe it or not.

    The ed-school mentality reminds me of an artist colony or a religious cult more than anything else.

    Physics teacher, you and I are in absolute
    agreement that the American system of education
    schools is the big impediment towards doing this.
    I’ve said before, and I’ll say again, a
    marginally-proficient high school graduate has a
    better shot of being a good teacher *before* going
    to ed school than after.

    Tell me about it. I never wasted so much money as I did taking ed courses. The only good to come out of it is the fact that it was an eye opener. I would never have thought that such stupidity could exist at a college environment.

    Where communities need flexibility is how to
    implement good instruction.

    Of course, and I never argued against this. But this is a far cry from most of what I hear advocated.

    to get good teachers into inner-city Oakland,
    for instance, would require a lot more pay and
    other incentives

    I think in a situation like this better security and a “team-teaching” strategy would act as an incentive.

    If you were to ask me what I would want as a teacher I would say “teaching assistant”. Someone to help out, part time or possibly fulltime, with copying, grading, discipline, etc. I’d be more than willing to share with colleagues. This would be a good start for people wishing to get into teaching (instead of taking virtual lobotomy education classes)

    I think an idea like this would go a long way in some of our toughest schools. It’s funny that I never hear this idea tossed about. Schools will shell out millions for laptops (so kids end up playing games), but not this.

    Budgets, organizational structure, class
    sizes, and school culture are all best left at the
    local level based on community needs. Curriculum
    and how to teach it should become standard
    practice based on research and experience.

    Agreed.

  47. PT, You really should read a whole comment and avoid an incremental shotgun response.

    “Why not have something like A-level, B-level, and
    so forth.”

    OK, but how will the government make this happen, especially for K-8? What is the reality of trying to force this on schools and educators who even complain about very low NCLB standards? Our K-8 schools are built around full-inclusion. It drives everything, and it’s not in the direction of higher academic standards. It’s anti-A-level and anti-B-level by definition.

    “Project Follow Through gave us hard evidence for the ineffectiveness of various constructivist methods. That’s what number should be used for.”

    You have much more faith in the government and public schools than I do. How, exactly, will this happen? Project Follow Through hasn’t done the trick, and I don’t expect the National Mathematics Advisory Panel report will change fuzzy math thinking much in K-8. We probably would agree on what constitutes a quality education, but I’ve learned that consensus on this is nowhere as easy as defining airline procedures. On one hand, you decry the influence of ed school philosophy, but on the other hand, you think that the government can eliminate the problem by decree. Well, the government has already decreed low NCLB expectations. How do you change them to high expectations? How do you add levels when so many are anti-level? This is not just a disagreement over difficulty of tests. It’s a disagreement over basic assumptions.

    Your position seems to be an odd combination of higher academic standards and support of the status quo.

  48. “Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of . . .selecting teachers.”

    That central hiring should work real well in Montana, where our two furthese districts are 813 miles from each other (Alzada to Yaak.)

  49. Physics Teacher says:

    OK, but how will the government make this happen, especially for K-8? What is the reality of trying

    How does anything happen? I think America’s education problems are far more solvable than other problems we face.

    to force this on schools and educators who even complain about very low NCLB standards?

    I don’t see many educators opposing standards. What I see opposed is who is held accountable.

    If students are miseducated by crap like EveryDay Math, then EveryDay Math deserves to be eliminated and not the school or the teachers being held accountable.

    Likewise, students will blow off exams that don’t “count”. These standardized tests need to be tied to consequences for students and not the school.

    Our K-8 schools are built around full-inclusion. It drives everything, and it’s not in the direction of higher academic standards.

    I agree. But why not call for reversing this instead of calling for eliminating public schools, privatization, home-schooling, and all the other far more radical solutions that are thrown about. If you think public education can’t be improved then what makes you think that you can just sweep it away entirely?

    You have much more faith in the government and public schools than I do.

    You have to trust someone sometime, don’t you? We’re not cowboys living on some prarie. If you boot government out, you invite far worse corruption. The government, at least in theory, answers to you. Corporations, even in theory, have only profit as their goal.

    Thanks to public pressure Prohibition was enacted. Thanks to public pressure Prohibition was repealed. I don’t see any reason why we can’t fix public education.

    I trust the FAA to get me safely to my destination. The mistake in public education was that we trusted the wrong people (ed schools) and not that we trusted someone (the government)

    Project Follow Through hasn’t done the trick,

    Because ed schools ignored the outcome. Like I said, ed schools are the enemy.

    and I don’t expect the National Mathematics Advisory Panel report will change fuzzy math thinking much in K-8.

    If your local police force was corrupt, what would you advocate?

    1) Eliminating police altogether?
    2) Choice (e.g., private police forces affordable
    by the wealthy)
    3) Cleaning up the current department (firing
    corrupt leadership, more transparency, etc.)

    as defining airline procedures.

    I suspect that the average Joe could come up with something better than the average ed school.

    On one hand, you decry the influence of ed school philosophy, but on the other hand, you think that the government can eliminate the problem by decree.

    If witch doctors gave out medical licenses we’d be in trouble. But I don’t think it would be a difficult problem to solve.

    Well, the government has already decreed low NCLB expectations.

    I don’t consider NCLB to be any sort of attempt at improving education to begin with. I suspect that the motive for it is just to find excuses to close public schools and nothing more.

    Your position seems to be an odd combination of higher academic standards and support of the status quo.

    I dont’ see it that way at all

  50. Why not? If the government has defined airline procedures — a far more complex problem — then why can’t it happen for education, which isn’t rocket science.

    Because it’s pretty tough to explain away an airline crash as the fault of the passengers or to argue that it didn’t actually happen. Also, the professional have an extremely strong interest in a good outcome if they’re pilots, not so much if they’re teachers, even less so if they’re administrators. Finally, while education standards may not be rocket science the rocket scientists don’t have to contend with ideologically and politically-motivated nincompoops who have no responsibility in case the rocket goes “kaboom!”, fiddling with any aspect of the rocket that suits their fancy.

    Why would this have to be true?

    Because as a national standard every group with an ideological, political, pecuniary and legitimate interest is going to be jostling to be heard and since the setting of the standard will inevitably become a political process, they will be heard. Given the definition of a political compromise – that no one ends up happy – is there much reason to think that a national standard won’t end up as a national spectator sport?

    NCLB is just an excuse to justify privatization of education.

    Would that were true but it isn’t. It’s an attempt at national standards. You still think a national standard’s a good idea?

    By the way, before you blandly assert again that NCLB is just an attempt to justify the privatization of public education you might want to check the Senate vote that passed NCLB. There are plenty of senators who voted for the bill who aren’t generally associated with the privatization of much of anything let alone public education. Why don’t you explain why Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton and more then a few other distinctly leftwingish Democrats found so compelling about NCLB?

    A national SET of standards doesn’t imply one single yardstick.

    Which is what NCLB is since all that it actually requires is that schools perform to the standards set by the state in which the school exists.

    Fifty standards and look what it’s accomplished; ostensible adults, suddenly faced with having to live up to a standard they set themselves are inspired to heights of cleverness which result in the bright idea of changing those standards so they’re easier to meet. Quick, someone alert the Nobel Prize committee.

    Fine, but why not make public schools follow?

    Make? I’d rather have a situation in which schools don’t need to be flogged to try to meet the standards.

    In order to have accountability you need a uniform way of measuring something. Meaning standardized tests.

    Nope. All you need is for the customer to hold the hammer; to determine whether an organization’s offerings are acceptable and, if not, to put an end to the organization by avoiding their offerings.

    I cannot for the life of me understand why so many people are so obssessed with choice.

    Oh heck, that’s easy. You benefit from and are comfortable with the situation in which the customer, err, parent, has little to no choice. If the situations to your liking why on earth would anyone whose opinion you’d give any credence too want to change it?

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    The American public education is in the throes of substantive but they’re just beginning. The changes on the horizon’ll remake the public education system into something that’s not all that recognizable to us now and I’m even beginning to have some hope that there’ll be a Soviet Union-like collapse of the public education system in the not-too-distant future.

    It can’t come fast enough to suit me.

  51. Physics Teacher says:

    Why don’t you explain why Teddy Kennedy, John Kerry, Charles Schumer, Hillary Clinton and more then a few other distinctly leftwingish Democrats found so compelling about NCLB?

    Apparently, because they didn’t devote much more thought to it than you did.

    Why are “schools” held accountable when history has proven that snake oil like Whole Language has left countless illiterates in its wake?

    How about the various fuzzy math programs? Why doesn’t the law target these?

    How does removing funding from a school help education if the poison that made it sick is still out there?

    If you see this as an attempt to improve education then I’ve got bridge to sell you.

    You benefit from and are comfortable with the situation in which the customer, err, parent, has little to no choice.

    Excuse me? I am a parent, and the situation doesn’t suit me or my child.

    and I’m even beginning to have some hope that there’ll be a Soviet Union-like collapse of the public education system in the not-too-distant future.

    It can’t come fast enough to suit me.

    When the Dark Ages return — and that’s what we will have without public education — I’m sure you’ll do fine. Don’t forget to practice your “Bring out yer dead” chant.

  52. Physics Teacher says:

    Link? I do not remember this. Sounds unlikely to me

    link: http://groups.google.com/group/alt.politics/browse_thread/thread/a131ffb54b2b7c31/d53278db58681aab

    (me): “If we applied the logic of education critics to the problems of aviation safety we’d have one group arguing that pilots should all have the “freedom” to choose cruising altitudes as the mood suits them and another group claiming that all we need is to allow passengers to choose the “best” airports”

    (you):

    That I don’t see. The State itself is a corporation. People do not become more intelligent, better-informed, or altruistic when they enter the State’s employ. Quite the opposite; guns attract thugs. Why suppose political processes will outperform markets in expressing the preferences of the population? People want to survive air travel and they want their children equipped to make their way through life. Corporations in a competitive market want to earn a profit and they don’t want to get sued.

  53. “How does anything happen?”

    OK, I’ll bite. How, exactly, do you use the National Math Advisory Panel report to get rid of Everyday Math? What, exactly, do you do to get schools to ensure that learning gets done? Heck. How do you make sure that kids entering fifth grade know their times table? Even if you drop Singapore Math into a school system, it won’t necessarily match their educational philosophy. Kids will still get to fifth grade without knowing their times table.

    “If students are miseducated by crap like EveryDay Math, then EveryDay Math deserves to be eliminated and not the school or the teachers being held accountable.”

    I don’t follow. My son’s school selected EM over the objections of many parents (at least they didn’t select TERC), but somehow, there is another force that will get it removed? In fact, all of the teachers were involved with the selection. This wasn’t crammed down their throats.

    “Likewise, students will blow off exams that don’t “count”. These standardized tests need to be tied to consequences for students and not the school.”

    First you say that students are miseducated, and then you say that the students are the ones to held accountable. There is a lot of accountability to spread around. In another thread I tried to find out exactly what schools expect from parents and kids. That way, we can focus on what we can expect from schools.

    Choice is the only way I see that can force any real kind of change. It may not be perfect, but it’s better than wishful thinking. Consensus is not possible.

  54. Physics Teacher says:

    Steve,

    Students will not do their best, or even try, if they don’t have to. So any test that they take will not “measure” anything unless they’re held responsible.

    Students at my school, by the time they take what used to be called earth science, have already passed the necessary standardized tests in biology and chemistry. They could afford to flunk the third, and they did just that.

    The geo teachers obtained permission to count the results of the standardized test toward their regular grade. Guess what? The performance on the ST improved dramatically. It was a miracle!

    Notice that it didn’t take all that much.

    Regarding choice: Here’s a simple thought experiment. Suppose we have two schools, the “good” one and the “bad” one, each with 1000 students. Maybe I’m misunderstanding something, but the choice advocates seem to imply that if parents could choose, the parents of all students could choose the “good” school, and all would be peachy. Exactly what is supposed to happen?

    1) 2,000 students in the good school, and 0 in the bad? So, now the bad school will need to try harder to attract 1,000 students? What makes you think they weren’t trying their best already? What makes you think it wasn’t the population of the bad school that made it bad and now that population is in what used to be the good school? What if the bad school was the bad school because it was using crappy methods, but no one’s focusing on those and they just live to see another day elsewhere?

    2) The “right” 1,000 students in the good school and the “wrong” 1,000 students in the bad? How does this change anything?

    What makes you think that either of these scenarios wouldn’t result in political turmoil?

    Doesn’t it make much more sense to apply successful teaching methods to both schools to begin with? Sure, there will be differences, but the overall performance should be better and we won’t be the laughing stock of the world as far as education goes. You suggest that this is too politically heated to work. What makes you think that choice won’t be a political storm if it was fully implemented?

  55. (PT): “…I mentioned that the FAA is a government monopoly, and yet its employees safely deliver tens of thousands of flights safely each day. You insisted that some kind of “competion” between assorted corporations/entities would achieve the same, or better. You never specified how.”
    (MK): “Link? I do not remember this. Sounds unlikely to me.”
    (PT): “link: http://groups.google.com/group/alt.politics/browse_thread/thread/a131ffb54b2b7c31/d53278db58681aab
    (PT): “(Me)…’If we applied the logic of education critics to the problems of aviation safety we’d have one group arguing that pilots should all have the ‘freedom’ to choose cruising altitudes as the mood suits them and another group claiming that all we need is to allow passengers to choose the ‘best’ airports.’
    (you): ‘That I don’t see. The State itself is a corporation. People do not become more intelligent, better-informed, or altruistic when they enter the State’s employ. Quite the opposite; guns attract thugs. Why suppose political processes will outperform markets in expressing the preferences of the population? People want to survive air travel and they want their children equipped to make their way through life. Corporations in a competitive market want to earn a profit and they don’t want to get sued.’ ”

    Close but no cigar. a) I did not argue for the freedom of pilots to fly wherever they wanted “as the mood suits them”. I disputed the contention that that that result would ensue. b) Choosing airports has little to do with air-trraffic control. c) I mentioned lawsuits. Courts enforce industry standards. I don’t object to the FAA, I contend that the public benefits from common “rules of the road” and expect that these would evolve under State operation of the FAA or without State intrusion. What is the difference between a fine from the FAA and a financial award from a court? Same effect.

    The analogy between the FAA and the education industry is bogus. The public does not gain from State-mandated standardized schooling.

    (PT): “When the Dark Ages return — and that’s what we will have without public education…”

    Do not confuse “public education” with “compulsory attendance at State (government, generally) operated schools”. In Hong Kong, Calculus is standard 11th grade Math. 90% of Hong Kong students take taxpayer subsidies to independent schools. The government of Singapore subsidizes parents’ choice of school. Singapore didn’t comel attendance at school until the early 1990s. The Singapore 5th (fifth) percentile score (1996 TIMSS 8th grade Math) is higher than the US 50th (fiftieth) percentile score.

    Richard Arkwright was homeschooled. James Hargreaves and Thomas Highs were either homeschooled or minimally schooled. Cyrus McCormick was homeschooled. Thomas Edison was homeschooled. Benjamin Franklin attended school for two years, then apprenticed. Hiram Maxim left school at 13 and apprenticed. The Wright brothers were high school dropouts. Robert Fitzroy was homeschooled until age 12, attended the Admiralty school for 20 months, and went to sea at 14. David Farragut joined the Navy at 9, went to sea at 11, and commanded his first ship at 15.

    In the US today, what we call “the public school system” has become a make-work program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded contracts for politically-connected construction contractors and suppliers, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination.

  56. What if the bad school was the bad school because it was using crappy methods, but no one’s focusing on those and they just live to see another day elsewhere?

    Part of what has to happen for education to improve, whether by competition or command, is to blow away the cult of mush-brained fools who crafted the terrible methods. The NCTM and NSF, for starters, need to go. The ed schools need to follow them. They need to be replaced by a combination of content experts who can provide expertise about all the dependencies that exist in the curriculum and congnitive scientists and development experts to help craft a plan to deliver the curriculum in a way that the dependencies are met.

    The order things are taught in and the methods by which they’re presented need to drive off the content. Constructivism and scaffolding, which don’t respect the structure of the content, have to recognized as educational malpractice. And that will take public pressure from college professors and employers who have to clean up the mess caused by this malpractice.

    So long as education as a field doesn’t have an idea of what good practice and malpractice are, choice won’t improve it, neither will mandates. The two pronged approach needs to be a push for professional practice guidelines and local control. That way, communities can decide, on a city by city basis, what kind of school choice they’ll have. The state and the federal government just can’t do much to help here, and have already done a lot to hurt by enabling the mush-brained ed schools in the first place.

  57. (PT): “What makes you think that choice won’t be a political storm if it was fully implemented?

    Choice defuses conflict. Imagine the glorious arguments we could have if Indian Hindus, Israeli Orthodox Jews, Saudi Muslims, and Chinese omnivores had to agree on a common diet.

    Policies which give to individual parents the power to determine what, where and how their own children learn place control over education in the hands of people who know individual children best and are most reliably concerned for their welfare.

  58. Physics Teacher says:


    Richard Arkwright was homeschooled. James Hargreaves and Thomas Highs were either homeschooled or minimally schooled. Cyrus McCormick was homeschooled. Thomas Edison was homeschooled…

    And this is what you regard as a general solution to what many regard as an educational crisis?

    There were people who were well educated during the Dark Ages as well. But, in general, the population was poorly educated.

    The fact that you may have a handful of well educated people among a population of illiterates doesn’t bode well for the future of a country. Today, we have people like Bill Gates campaigning for the legal right not to hire American citizens. The excuse he uses is the general level of education, and from that he implies that there are no Americans educated enough to work for him. People like you are handing him his dreams.

    No industry can thrive in an region where most people are idiots but here and there we find a self-made Ben Franklin.

  59. Physics Teacher says:


    Choice defuses conflict. Imagine the glorious arguments we could have if Indian Hindus, Israeli Orthodox Jews, Saudi Muslims, and Chinese omnivores had to agree on a common diet

    ROTFLMAO

    What happens when Macy’s has a sale on “cute shoes” and everyone has the “choice” of buying the cutest of the cute shoes? What if the cute shoes are a limited resource?

    As someone who’s worked in retail, “defuses conflict” is very optimistic.

  60. “Doesn’t it make much more sense to apply successful teaching methods to both schools to begin with?”

    How, exactly, does this happen? I might agree with you, but you haven’t explained any details.

    “What makes you think they weren’t trying their best already?”

    Because 1000 kids left. Parents are not completely stupid. Besides, it’s not just about trying hard. My son’s school tries really hard, but they still use Everyday Math.

    “What makes you think that choice won’t be a political storm if it was fully implemented?”

    It’s already a storm. Our state had a moratorium on charter schools, and the educational establishment has veto power over all new charters. They don’t want to see any charter school that sets high academic standards. Any real change will create a storm; choice or not.

    I mentioned before that one path for change without school choice is if a school system provides the choice itself, say between TERC and Singapore Math. It would be an interim step to prove to everyone that one is better than the other. This could be a process that would lead to better curricula and methods, but I won’t hold my breath. There are indications, however, that charter school choice forces regular public schools to work harder.

    You talk about how increased pressure on grades cause students to work harder. We need the same thing for schools. Choice is a way to provide that force. What do you offer as the driving force for good curricula and proper teaching?

  61. Physics Teacher says:


    How, exactly, does this happen? I might agree with you, but you haven’t explained any details.

    I don’t have details. As an insider (who used to be an outsider) I’m stating what I see wrong, and I’m reacting to the outsiders (lots of pundits) who give us solutions in newspapers nearly everyday.

    Most of my colleagues see things the way I see them. Most of the general public seems to as well when I tell them the whole story. This is why I think that concensus on education is far more possible than you think it is.

    I’m just a teacher writing a somewhat informed opinion in a public forum hoping to catch the ear(s) of those with more charisma than me.


    Because 1000 kids left. Parents are not completely stupid. Besides, it’s not just about trying hard. My son’s school tries really hard, but they still use Everyday Math

    I never said that parents were stupid. Most “outsiders” assume that we have far more autonomy than we really do. A colleague of mine got scolded for using big words. Another for not playing games with the kids. Another for demanding that students label physical quantities with units. But teachers get the blame for dumbing down.

    Running with my example, if you believe that you could cram 2,000 students into a 1,000 student school, why is it that you think that the school can’t be forced to abandon EM?

    Any real change will create a storm; choice or not.

    So why not push for changes that are substantial?


    I mentioned before that one path for change without school choice is if a school system provides the choice itself, say between TERC and Singapore Math.

    OK, but this should be part of a controlled experiment and not a choice in perpetuity. If, and when, EM results in lower test scores (and remedial math students in college) it should be buried forever and its name never spoken in polite company again.

  62. Physics Teacher says:

    Quincy wrote:
    So long as education as a field doesn’t have an idea of what good practice and malpractice are, choice won’t improve it

    Thank you. Well put.

    The choice crowd assumes that the educational establishment knows how to teach (or, rather, how to tell teachers to teach), but that they’re lazy and they need a little competition to get them going. It’s like assuming that quadraplegics will run fast if you stage a race.

  63. Apparently, because they didn’t devote much more thought to it than you did.

    Save the juvenile insults for the juveniles or if you don’t have a response to the not-from-eduWonkette revelation then just man up and admit it.

    Since you obviously have no substantive reply to make on the subject let’s just assume you’ve never given the slightest thought to the possibility that NCLB could be anything other then a dark plot by sinister forces and that’s about as deep as your curiosity has led you.

    Why are “schools” held accountable when history has proven that snake oil like Whole Language has left countless illiterates in its wake?

    I don’t know what the quotes are for but the notion that the public education system isn’t responsible for the substitution of edu-crap(tm) for worthwhile instructional techniques sort of leaves the question up in the air of who could conceivably be responsible.

    How does removing funding from a school help education if the poison that made it sick is still out there?

    By making it an organizational capital offense to fall in love with edu-crap(tm).

    If schools that do a lousy job suffer for doing a lousy job there are going to be fewer schools doing a lousy job. If schools that do a lousy enough job cease to exist then the professionals who depend on schools for their livelihood are liable to be somewhat more forceful in rejecting the imposition of edu-crap(tm) by love-smitten administrators.

    If you see this as an attempt to improve education then I’ve got bridge to sell you.

    See, this is why comedy should be left to the professionals.

    Excuse me? I am a parent, and the situation doesn’t suit me or my child.

    So if you had some choices that would result in a better educational situation for your child you wouldn’t opt for those choices?

    When the Dark Ages return — and that’s what we will have without public education — I’m sure you’ll do fine.

    Wasn’t that the premise of “Mad Max”?

  64. I doubt “nationalizing” school districts would change the politics of education for the “20”, they already have those problems in spades. The impact would be seen in the smaller or more homogeneous districts that aren’t representative samples of the whole. I think Gerstner already suggested that there be a choice for states to opt out. I see no reason why this couldn’t be done at the district level and not at the state level. That way the districts with high benefit and low cost could join in and the others could do what they wanted.

  65. Ponderosa says:

    Allen,

    Maybe you’re right to talk about teachers as if they’re largely contemptible, complacent slackers who care only about job security, and that the only way to get them to teach well is to expose them to the insecurities of the free market. But the teachers at my school (myself excepted) work at a positively frantic pace, are for the most part embarrassed to be part of the union, will do anything extra the administration asks them… Yet the test results remain mediocre. It seems to me that in THIS school at least, all that’s needed is a removal of the “snake oil” philosophies, as Physics Teacher calls them. Give ’em a sound educational program, and this staff would implement it with gusto.

    I rather suspect that more schools are like mine than not; that most teachers actually work quite hard and really want to do a good job. And that the reason results remain disappointing is that most of them have been given the ed school snake oil.

  66. A comment was made about teachers supposedly choosing EveryDay Math.

    A local school district decided to implement ED, over the objections of the local teachers who had a completely different recommedation.

    In the meantime, district officials went around removing other Math materials out of classrooms to ensure nothing but ED was used, probably at the urging of the snake oil salesmen at McGraw-Hill.

    Just b/c there was a teacher committee, don’t assume teachers actually had a say so in the choice.

  67. “I don’t have details.”

    That’s a problem.

    “This is why I think that concensus on education is far more possible than you think it is.”

    OK. How will this consensus happen? You can’t just trash choice and then expect something magical will happen. I’m quite pragmatic and willing to look for a non-school-choice solution to the problem. What is the mechanism?

    “Most ‘outsiders’ assume that we have far more autonomy than we really do.”

    And most teachers think that everyone is complaining about them. They circle the wagons and get very defensive. Some even want parents to take sides in some sort of union versus administration battle. No thank you. I’ve seen too many union rules that do not benefit students, and I have seen too many administration decisions that completely ignore parents.

    The problems of education are not defined by what walks into the classroom. The problem is not how a teacher can possibly prepare kids to take a standardized test; a teacher-centric viewpoint. The problem is how some of these kids got to the classroom in the first place; a systemic viewpoint.

    Even if you could drop a good curriculum into a school, you still have to have the desire from teachers and the administration to make sure that learning gets done. This is perhaps feasible in high school, where kids are already tracked and teachers have training in their specialty, but it’s much different in K-8. There is a big growth of private K-8 schools around our area. Some kids go to private schools up through 8th grade for the academics, and then go back to public high schools because the AP classes aren’t much different and you can save $25,000+ per year. There are exceptions. Choice would allow parents to avoid those exceptions.

  68. Physics Teacher says:


    OK. How will this consensus happen? You can’t just trash choice and then expect something magical will happen. I’m quite pragmatic and willing to look for a non-school-choice solution to the problem. What is the mechanism?

    The only people with a vested interest in the status quo are the education schools, and I don’t see them as being all that powerful. Administrators are usually mercenaries who will serve whoever keeps giving them the perks. None of the teachers that I know — and I suspect few secondary teachers anywhere — support the status quo. And by status quo I mean the grade inflation, self-esteem junk, dumb-down while we pretend to raise standards strategies. The ed schools simply have inertia on their side.


    The problem is how some of these kids got to the classroom in the first place; a systemic viewpoint.

    But it’s the most recent teacher that gets the blame for what is a systemic problem. That’s why you have some people getting defensive.


    Choice would allow parents to avoid those exceptions.

    And it would force other parents into those exceptions. Musical chairs doesn’t improve the seating with each round. And that’s how I see choice, status quo with musical chairs.

  69. Physics Teacher says:

    So if you had some choices that would result in a better educational situation for your child you wouldn’t opt for those choices?

    Unlike you I understand the fallacy of composition. Before you google that, I’ll save you the trouble.

    Sure, if I, and only I, had numerous choices in my son’s education I could maximize his success. Much of this would result from the fact that I understand eduspeak better than the average person and I could navigate the nonsense better.

    But this is an unrealistic situation. If choice is expanded to everyone then on average we’ll remain exactly where we are. Even worse, I suspect that then the focus will be on getting in to the right schools instead of actually learning something there. I see this already with respect to college admissions. Also, parents, instead of being united in obtaining the best education for their children will now be competing against each other for the limited resource of good schools. Schools themselves, won’t necessarily compete to provide the best teaching, but they’ll likely compete to attract students who are likely to score high to begin with.

  70. “And it would force other parents into those exceptions. Musical chairs doesn’t improve the seating with each round. And that’s how I see choice, status quo with musical chairs.”

    Supply won’t meet demand and no alternative mechanism.

    While you’re figuring out what to do, I’ll keep fighting our state’s educational power structure which is trying very hard to limit supply.

  71. “I suspect that then the focus will be on getting in to the right schools instead of actually learning something there.”

    We’re back to the parents are stupid argument. Choice won’t work because parents are stupid. We have to depend on graduates of schools of education.

    “Schools themselves, won’t necessarily compete to provide the best teaching, but they’ll likely compete to attract students who are likely to score high to begin with.”

    Schools are stupid too!

    Great. Who do you want to be in charge of your wonderful schools?

  72. Physics Teacher says:

    We’re back to the parents are stupid argument. Choice won’t work because parents are stupid. We have to depend on graduates of schools of education.

    I never said parents were stupid. You’ve been saying it.

    Students already are far more obssessed with getting into Harvard than learning anything to actually succeed there.

    Do you want this process happening in earlier grades?

    I attended a catholic elementary school (which sucked), one year of catholic high school (better, but nothing to brag about), and three years at an average public high school (best). The only thing the catholic schools had going for them was (self) selectivity.

    This gave the CS nice numbers which they spun into “we provide the best education”. In reality, I saw no effort on the part of catholic schools to provide a good education. But the spin fooled many people, including my parents. This doesn’t mean that my parents and other were stupid. Unless you’re there, and unless you have something to which to compare the school, it’s impossible to see inside the black box.

    It’s an article of faith with you that schools will be forced to improve if we give parents choice.

    Schools are stupid too!

    Your words, not mine.

    It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance.

    Ever join a recreational sports league? Your team can be competitive through teamwork, sound strategy, practice. Some teams will follow this path. But this is not the path of least resistance. The path of least resistance is to load your team with ringers such as former college players or even former professionals.

    The moment one team does it nearly every team in the league will follow suit, and things get ugly. Teamwork goes out the window.

    Good luck with your strategy.

  73. Still no mechanism. I’ve seen this before. Trash everything else, but offer no solution.

    Good luck with your dream world.

  74. Physics Teacher says:

    Still no mechanism. I’ve seen this before. Trash everything else, but offer no solution.

    Good luck with your dream world.

    Buddy, I don’t see any solutions from you. You’ve never even offered a hint of how you would force the powers that be to offer you the choices that you so desperately seek. You simply want me to accept that this is the extent of your plan and that this is mechanism which you provide and for which I offer no counterpart.

    BTW, I’m not trashing “everything else”. I’m quite selective in what I’ve been trashing. If you’re offended, then pony up a rebuttal instead of getting your panties in a twist.

  75. SteveH,

    Would you agree that choice is an interesting social solution to a problem, because it works to redefine the problem — perhaps even defining it away? I think the goal of educating all children to certain standards is exactly one of those problems that can be defined away by use of choice. So what types of choices are you advocating? And how do you see choice relating to public funding.

    Sorry if I’m making you repeat yourself, but I chose to skip over some of the flame war with PT.

  76. (MK): “Choice defuses conflict. Imagine the glorious arguments we could have if Indian Hindus, Israeli Orthodox Jews, Saudi Muslims, and Chinese omnivores had to agree on a common diet…”
    (PT): “ROTFLMAO. What happens when Macy’s has a sale on ‘cute shoes’ and everyone has the “choice” of buying the cutest of the cute shoes? What if the cute shoes are a limited resource? As someone who’s worked in retail, ‘defuses conflict’ is very optimistic.”

    You address a concern that is the polar opposite of the issue I raised. You address a shift in demand from a variety of options to a few: a spike in demand. Monopolies and competitive markets responnd to spikes in demand by rationing (in the short term) and increasing supply, if possible) in the long term. A retailer in a competitive
    market rations by raising prices. He increases supply by ordering more of the good in demand. State-monopoly enterprises ration goods and services by substituting the dictators’ or some bureaucrat’s, or committee’s, or interest group’s determination of “need” for consumers’ wants. Generally, the bureaucratic method is slower and creates more resentment than does a market. But that really wasn’t the issue.

    My assertion that choice defuses conflict addressed a scenario exactly opposite: when wants are incompatible. Hindus regard cows as sacred. Jews and Muslims regard pigs as unclean. Jews also regard arthropods and mollusks as nclean. Some Hindus and Buddhists will not eat any animal products except for eggs and milk. Some among us who will eat anything other people call “food” except lima beas, brussels sprouts, and water cress. Then there are food allergies. Imagine the glorious arguments we could have trying to “democraticaly” decide on a common diet!

    Choice defuses conflict. You eat what you want and I’ll eat what I want. You worship your God, and I’ll worship mine. You buy the Math instruction you want and I’ll buy the Math instruction I want. No agreement is necessary.

  77. (PT): “Sure, if I, and only I, had numerous choices in my son’s education I could maximize his success. Much of this would result from the fact that I understand eduspeak better than the average person and I could navigate the nonsense better.”

    You are certainly fluent in eduspeak.

    (PT): “But this is an unrealistic situation. If choice is expanded to everyone then on average we’ll remain exactly where we are.”

    Not at all! Even in the current institutional environment, with exactly the same teachers, “choice” (subsidization of options, repeal of assignment by district) would reallocate students among schools.

    The current barriers to entry in the education industry (e.g., accreditation of schools, certification of teachers) are artificial. My proposal, outlined much earlier, for credit by exam, would almost immediately create demand for (un-accredited, uncertified) tutorial services. Some of these would grow into “schools” in all but name.

    Choice generates competitiion among suppliers. Just look at the pace of evolution in the computer industry, or other consumer electronics (e.g., cell phones, after the abolition of the Bell monopoly), cars, construction tools (e.g., laser transit, pneumatic nail guns), shoes (remember Converse, before synthetic running shoes?.

    Why is the pronghorn so fast? Cheetahs once inhabited North America. “If choice is expanded to everyone then on average we’ll remain exactly where we are” is wildly mistaken.

  78. “I don’t see any solutions from you.”

    No. You just don’t like the solution.

    “…how you would force the powers that be to offer you the choices that you so desperately seek.”

    Which is it; supply won’t meet demand, or parents can’t tell the relative difference between an education from school A versus school B? Who are you to dictate what parents should want. That’s what schools do now, and see where we are. Some parents might be all for an unschooling approach. What if parents want Green Dot or KIPP schools. Are you going to say no? Some parents have a goal of getting their kids into Harvard. Is this a bad goal? Compared to what? What we have now?

    “… then pony up a rebuttal …”

    You’ve offered no solution to rebut. Even in the simple case of trying to replace Everyday Math in K-8 schools, you offer nothing.

  79. Physics Teacher says:

    Choice generates competitiion among suppliers. Just look at the pace of evolution in the computer industry, or other consumer electronics (e.g., cell phones, after the abolition of the Bell monopoly), cars, construction tools (e.g., laser transit, pneumatic nail guns), shoes (remember Converse, before synthetic running shoes?.

    The financial industry gave us countless choices in mutual funds, derivatives, and various other instruments with the promise that we would all be rich. How could we not with all those choices? Yet the reality turned out differently.

  80. “Would you agree that choice is an interesting social solution to a problem, ..”

    It’s interesting in that it changes education from a lowest common denominator statistical solution to one that is based more on the individual. That doesn’t necessarily mean no standards. It just puts more control in parents’ hands to find their own solutions. Some seem to think this is unfair; it should be all or no one. My opinion is that education should provide a path out of poverty, but education should not be used to eliminate poverty. The former focuses on the individual and merit, and the latter focuses on statistics. The educational opportunities of many poor and urban kids are held hostage to the social agendas of others. It’s tough to get to Harvard when an entire school system is thrilled if you just get to the community college.

    “I think the goal of educating all children to certain standards is exactly one of those problems that can be defined away by use of choice.”

    I won’t go that far. You can still have mandated testing, but the onus would be on both the parents and the school to use that information properly.

    “So what types of choices are you advocating?”

    Unfettered charter schools.

  81. (PT): “ If choice is expanded to everyone then on average we’ll remain exactly where we are.
    (MK): “Choice generates competitiion among suppliers. Just look at the pace of evolution in the computer industry, or other consumer electronics (e.g., cell phones, after the abolition of the Bell monopoly), cars, construction tools (e.g., laser transit, pneumatic nail guns), shoes (remember Converse, before synthetic running shoes?).”
    (PT): “The financial industry gave us countless choices in mutual funds, derivatives, and various other instruments with the promise that we would all be rich. How could we not with all those choices? Yet the reality turned out differently.
    You do not rebut my examples. I addressed your contention that we would be in the same place after choice. I assert that choice generates competition and competition spurs innovation. This remains true. Some have argued that intense competition between nations spurs rapid weapons development. That weapons kill does not rebut the contention. Furthermore, your non-sequitur rebuttal does not support your point. Politicians and administrators of a State-monopoly enterprise may just as well commit fraud on taxpayers as can brokers in a competitive securities market.

    I really need flash cards to raise when someone makes an argument which implicitly assumes that State employees are somehow more spiritually elevated than the rest of us.

    From earlier in this discussion…

    (MK): “I make less of the public/private distinction than most. The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality. Unions, even “public sector” unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. We are all public citizens and private individuals. People do not become more intelligent, better-informed, more altruistic, or more capable (except in their access to violence) when they enter the State’s employ.”.

  82. SteveH,

    Does unfettered charter schools mean unlimited private funding in addition to base funding provided by taxpayer dollars?

  83. SteveH,

    I agree with you on education being a path out of povertry. And that any sensible sensible approach to public educaiton will allow for the failure of individuals. I think the tricky part is how to figure out how much money to spend so that failures can be attributed to individuals and not to failing to provide an adequate path. I have not yet found any work on this question that I’ve found satisfying. If you know of anything I would appreciate a reference. I’m sure that some of the libertarians who participate on this blog, will inform me that is a result of trying to solve an impossible or immoral problem.

  84. Kimberly G says:

    I think it is good idea to nationalize standards for education, but I don’t agree that teachers pay should be according to the students performances. That is not fair because some students don’t care about their education and I understand it is a teachers job to educate, but how can you educate a student who doesn’t want to learn?

  85. Kimberly,

    What would you do with “standards”? Would the suggestion I outline in the post of 2008-Dec.-02-1629 (4:29 pm) be enough?

  86. “unfettered charter schools”

    I use that to mean few restrictions on charters. In our state (now that the moratorium is over), charter schools have to jump through many hoops, not the least of which is approval by the state’s educational hierarchy. They will only approve charter schools that are quite different or specialize in those students at the bottom of the traditional public school heap. This doesn’t include schools that set higher standards or schools that might want to use something like Core Knowledge. Regular public schools don’t mind when the low end goes away, but they’ll yell and scream when the top end goes away.

    The Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (The words “rigorous academic setting” are on their home page.) in Marlborough, MA (not my state) went through a terrible time trying to get it’s charter approved a few years ago. The regular public schools had their students write letters against the change. If I recall, one of the turning points was when the panel members saw all of the poor writing and grammatical mistakes in the letters.

    Our schools say that the kids in town should not be allowed to go to charter schools because we have “High Performing” schools. Of course, this means only that the school is good at getting most all students over a minimal state proficiency cut-off number. That’s not a tough job in a high SES community.

    As for funding, I don’t have a stong position about that. I know that there are a lot of funny state funding rules. Our town (along with a few others in our state) are at the brink of losing all state funding. They don’t think we need help. I can understand that a state might want to reduce a base support level if a school gets a lot of other funding (from taxpayers in our case). Since charters don’t belong to a town, and students can come from various other towns, the funding formula would become more complicated.

    “I think the tricky part is how to figure out how much money to spend so that failures can be attributed to individuals and not to failing to provide an adequate path.”

    I guess this doesn’t bother me too much because I see a whole lot of money (per student) floating around most schools. Urban schools need more money, of course, but I don’t see how you could keep people from blaming a lack of money. Also, some schools could have plenty of money, but not provide an adequate path. I would say that parents and students will have to make their own individual judgments about that. Failures will happen, but I don’t think they will be satisfied with an argument of adequate spending.

  87. Physics Teacher says:

    You do not rebut my examples. I addressed your contention that we would be in the same place after choice. I assert that choice generates competition and competition spurs innovation.

    I did rebut your examples. You did not rebut mine. Your assertions are not proof and contradicted by experience.

    Until recently people argued that countless random choices by random people making random stock purchases would enrich not only them, but keep companies honest (they now compete for grandma’s loyalty when she’s on Ameritrade), reward good companies, sink bad companies, and magically funnel investments where they are needed most and away from where there are not need.

    That didn’t happen. AT ALL. People did get punished, but not the ones making horrible decisions.

    Yet, you and others in this forum are proposing exactly the same model for education. Random choices will create magic. (and white noise will spontaneously rearrange itself into a symphony). Random choices will make the snake oil disappear.

    I could respect the views of people like Steve if he was arguing for parents making informed decisions, but he has consistently argued that random choices are some panacea.

    I really need flash cards to raise when someone makes an argument which implicitly assumes that State employees are somehow more spiritually elevated than the rest of us

    I never said any such thing. There are examples of things that government agencies do very well. Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner, has written extensively on the low overhead of Social Security compared to privatization schemes that some other countries have tried. (Please don’t tell me that Social Security is unconstitutional. It isn’t your call. If, and when, the Supreme Court makes that call, you will have a case)

    There are government agencies that once work poorly but were improved by choosing some good leadership. The VHA is one of them. Krugman has written about that too.

    The only solution people like you see as far as public education goes is to completely throw it in the trash. All I’ve been saying all along is that getting rid of snake oil philosophies would work to elevate achievement.

    Explain this to me:

    1) Americans like choice
    2) Americans like competition
    3) Some Americans like these things to a great extent
    4) Americans, in general, will insert choice and competition anywhere they can.
    5) Many Americans insist that choice and competition inevitably lead to the optimal outcome every single time and that this is the only route to an optimal outcome.
    6) This has been going on a long, long time.
    7) If all this is true then we should have reached the optimal outcome already. We should already have the best education, the best health care, the best infrastructure, etc.

    Explain why this doesn’t seem to be the case.

  88. Physics Teacher says:

    I use that to mean few restrictions on charters

    Could you please supply a detailed plan as to how these restrictions are to be removed.

    If you don’t have details, you’ve got nothing.

  89. “I could respect the views of people like Steve if he was arguing for parents making informed decisions, but he has consistently argued that random choices are some panacea.”

    Cheap debating trick.

    That’s the basis for your rebuttal? Parents aren’t able to make enough of an informed decision to have any effect on demand. Therefore choice won’t work. Thankfully, few believe that.

    “There are government agencies that once work poorly but were improved by choosing some good leadership. The VHA is one of them. Krugman has written about that too.”

    OK, but how would this work for education? Education is not one agency. It defies top-down control. I might agree with you if saw any way this could happen. What if they decided that the best education involves TERC? You’re looking for a benevolent dictator sort of top down solution. Even if you could get someone with the power, what makes you think he or she would come up with a good solution? Then there is the issue of diffrent assumptions. Some claim that education should be based on valid reserch. Unfortunately, valid research can say quite different things based on assumptions.

    “The only solution people like you see as far as public education goes is to completely throw it in the trash.”

    Charter schools are public education. Besides, I lost the dreamy-eyed egalitarian view of public education long ago.

    “All I’ve been saying all along is that getting rid of snake oil philosophies would work to elevate achievement.”

    And you’ve given us no idea of how this will happen. Your snake oil philosophies are someone else’s authentic learning.

    “Could you please supply a detailed plan as to how these restrictions are to be removed.”

    Ooooh! A “detailed plan”! While you provide nothing about how you expect “snake oil philosophies” to disappear.

    Actually, there are groups in our state that successfully opposed the extension of the charter school moratorium and continue to fight the restrictions on charters. I expect we will start to see more charter schools with the words “rigor” and “academic” in their charter. There is a demand for these schools and there are people trying to start them. They will meet the demand for those who want curricula like Singapore Math. The demand might be random for a small part of the market, but a large part knows exactly what they want.

    The problem with education is that it strongly resists any top-down direction. States and school districts demand independence. Nobody wants to be dictated to. Any top-down solution would create a lowest common denominator fix (like NCLB).

    I can understand that some things might be too important to leave to the capriciousness of the free market. OK. I might agree with that. What’s the alternative? Some of us advocate choice for pragmatic reasons, not for political reasons.

  90. Physics Teacher says:

    Cheap debating trick.

    No, I was responding to what you wrote.

    What if they decided that the best education involves TERC?

    How very, very right you are. This can certainly happen. But, in this case it would be a national issue making it far, far more visible. The controversy would be on the nightly news, CNN, talk shows, Jay Leno, and on the front page of the paper.

    Here’s what I find very interesting about NCLB. Everybody in the country knows something about it It’s not unusual to see headlines asking whether it should be scrapped.

    On the other hand, only a tiny portion of the population knows anything about EM, TERC, Singapore Math, etc. The only reason I became aware of the math issue is because my students were so dismal at math. Neither I, nor my colleagues, could believe it.

    All the physics teachers I know are shocked when they see the youtube video showing in detail how TERC and EM work. Once I saw this, I mentioned it by name to a 5th grade teacher I know who is forced to use it and he told me how much EM sucks.

    The point is, that the only people who are aware of such things are parents of children of a certain age. Because it’s localized it’s invisible to people who could otherwise be your allies.

    A national standard, even a bad one, will get more press and attention, and is more likely to get fixed than countless local ones.

    Think about it. If you were fighting a guerilla war against a foreign invader do you really want to fight as a bunch of disorganized partizans exercising your own choices as to when and where to attack? There’s a reason why the Vietnamese were successful at holding off the Americans for so long.

    benevolent dictator

    I don’t know where you live but I live in the U.S. where we don’t have a dictator. Politicians are subject to the political process. The fact that many Americans have abandoned public life in recent decades doesn’t mean we have dictators.

    Charter schools are public education

    I could start my own charter school and develop my own curriculum and attract parents to send their kids to my school. I’m sure you wouldn’t because you don’t like me very much, but I could call my school something like “The Math and Science Innovation Institute” and people would come. I’ve interviewed at places like this, BTW.

    According to you I have to deliver the goods or else. OK. But how are these goods to be measured? Standardized tests? Being “unfettered” I can claim that I am above being meaured. And yes, I’ve actually been at a school that claims just that. “Our kids could ace the NYS Regents examinations, but we are, in principle, against Regents tests”. And they’ve been getting away with this BS for nearly 40 years. I too believed in some of their PR until I spent quite a bit of time there.

    Ooooh! A “detailed plan”! While you provide nothing about how you expect “snake oil philosophies” to disappear.

    I was being sarcastic. I didn’t realize I had to explain it.

  91. (PT): “.If choice is expanded to everyone then on average we’ll remain exactly where we are..”
    (MK): “.Choice generates competitiion among suppliers. Just look at the pace of evolution in the computer industry, or other consumer electronics (e.g., cell phones, after the abolition of the Bell monopoly), cars, construction tools (e.g., laser transit, pneumatic nail guns), shoes (remember Converse, before synthetic running shoes?)..”
    (PT): “.The financial industry gave us countless choices in mutual funds, derivatives, and various other instruments with the promise that we would all be rich. How could we not with all those choices? Yet the reality turned out differently..”
    (MK): “.You do not rebut my examples. I addressed your contention that we would be in the same place after choice. I assert that choice generates competition and competition spurs innovation..”
    (PT): “I did rebut your examples. You did not rebut mine. Your assertions are not proof and contradicted by experience.”

    The innovation in telecoms, consumer electronics, tools, etc. is more that “assertion”. it is observable fact. Did you dispute this? Which post? I must have missed it. Did you dispute that people differ over diet principles and nutritional requirements and that a standard, Federally-mandated diet would cause far more strife in the contest for control of the regulatory system than does the system of consumer choice? Which post? I must have missed it.

    I doubt that either of us understands financial markets and financial regulation well enough to say anything worth anyone’s attention. Beyond observing that corrupt bankers and corrupt regulators (up to the US Senate) participated in generating this mess, I pass on that discussion.

    You raise two instructive examples: the FAA and financial markets. They provide useful contrast with the education industry. The incentives to corruption in air traffic control are small, and the incentves for competent delivery (relative to incompetent delivery) are fairly strong. Also, success (no colisions) is clear. I will reconsider my position that effective regulation would occur without the State; although Delta doesn’t want to crash, Mohammed Atta did, and Ayman Zawahiri probably still does. The only way to assess all potential crash victims (e.g., building owners) is taxation. Uniform rules of the road and taxation work. On the other hand, a diversity of investment instruments is also probably beneficial. The temptation to divert investors’ funds is large, both for bankers and politicians. Thirty years ago, people used the term “industrial policy” to describe State direction of investment. It fails. Politicians are just as corruptible as bankers. Federal deposit insurance subsidized corruption in the S&L debacle of the 80s (Thank Representative Fernand St. Germaine). In a State-monopoly enterprise, we would all get taken.

    In the education industry, State aggregation of resources (taxpayers’ money and students’ time) enhances the incentive to misdirect resources.

    http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/cgi-bin/item/059580988X

    Neal McClusky on corruption in schools
    http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa542.pdf

  92. One last word: Soviet citizens used to view market economies as chaotic. It’s control freaks who insist on detailed plans. Humans are not standard, and the attempt to press all children into a common mold causes enormous damage.

    From: Hyman and Penroe, __Journal of School Psychology__.
    “Several studies of maltreatment by teachers suggest that school children report traumatic symptoms that are similar whether the traumatic event was physical or verbal abuse (Hyman, et.al.,1988; Krugman & Krugman, 1984; Lambert, 1990). Extrapolation from these studies suggests that psychological maltreatment of school children, especially those who are poor, is fairly widespread in the United States….”
    “In the early 1980s, while the senior author was involved in a school violence project, an informal survey of a random group of inner city high school students was conducted. When asked why they misbehaved in school, the most common response was that they wanted to get back at teachers who put them down, did not care about them, or showed disrespect for them, their families, or their culture….”
    “…schools do not encourage research regarding possible emotional maltreatment of students by staff or investigatiion into how this behavior might affect student misbehavior….”
    “…Since these studies focused on teacher-induced PTSD and explored all types of teacher maltreatment, some of the aggressive feelings were also caused by physical or sexual abuse. There was no attempt to separate actual aggression from feelings of aggression. The results indicated that at least 1% to 2% of the respondents’ symptoms were sufficient for a diagnosis of PTSD. It is known that when this disorder develops as a result of interpersonal violence, externalizing symptoms are often the result (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).”
    “While 1% to 2% might not seem to be a large percentage of a school-aged population, in a system like New York City, this would be about 10,000 children so traumatized by educators that they may suffer serious, and sometimes lifelong emotional problems (Hyman, 1990; Hyman, Zelikoff & Clarke, 1988). A good percentage of these students develop angry and aggressive responses as a result. Yet, emotional abuse and its relation to misbehavior in schools receives little pedagogical, psychological, or legal attention and is rarely mentioned in textbooks on school discipline (Pokalo & Hyman, 1993, Sarno, 1992).”
    “As with corporal punishment, the frequency of emotional maltreatment in schools is too often a function of the socioeconomic status (SES) of the student population (Hyman, 1990).”

    “Furthermore, according to a report for UNESCO, cited in Esteve (2000), the increasing level of pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil violence in classrooms is directly connected with compulsory schooling. The report argues that institutional violence against pupils who are obliged to attend daily at an educational centre until 16 or 18 years of age increases the frustration of these students to a level where they externalise it.” –Clive Harber, “Schooling as Violence”, p. 9, __Educatioinal Review__ V. 54, #1.

    “…It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it. Children whose days are spent herding animals rather than sitting in a clasroom at least develop skills of problem solving and independence while the supposedly luckier ones in school are stunted in their mental, physical, and emotional development by being rendered pasive, and by having to spend hours each day in a crowded classroom under the control of an adult who punishes them for any normal level of activity such as moving or speaking. (DfID, 2000, pp 12, 13)” Quoted in Clive Harber, “Schooling as Violence”, p. 10, __Educatioinal Review__, V. 54, #1.

    “Violence at school is a prevalent problem. According to a national survey of school proncipals (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1998), over 200,000 serious fights or physical attacks occurred in public schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Serious violent crimes occurred in approximately 12% of middle schools and 13% of high schools. Student surveys (Kann et al, 1995) indicate even higher rates of aggressive behavior. Approximately 16.2% of high school students nationwide reported involvement in a physical fight at school during a 30-day period, and 11.8% reported carrying a weapon on school property (Kann et al, 1995).”
    “Research on victims of violence at school suggests that repeated victimization has detrimental effects on a child’s emotional and social development (Batsche & Knoff, 1995; Hoover, Oliver, & Thomson, 1993; Olweus, 1993). Victims exhibit higher levels of anxiety and depression, and lower self-esteem than non-victims (eg., Besag, 1989; Gilmartin, 1987; Greenbaum, 1987; Olweus, 1993). Karen Brockenbrough, Dewey G. Cornell, Ann B. Loper, “Aggressive Attitudes Among Victims of Violence at School”, Education and the Treatment of Children, V. 25, #3, Aug., 2002.

    “Results showed that the over-representation of Black males that has been cited consistently in the literature begins at the elementary school level and continues through high school. Black females also were suspended at a much higher rate than White or Hispanic females at all three school levels.” Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Howard M. Knoff, “Who Gets Suspended From School and Why: A Demographic Analysis”, Education and the Treatment of Children V. 26, #1, Feb. 2003.

    “The failure to provide education to poor urban children perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty, dependence, criminality, and alienation that continues for the remainder of their lives. If society cannot end racial discrimination, at least it can arm minorities with the education to defend themselves from some of discrimination’s effects.” Justice Clarence Thomas,
    ZELMAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF OHIO, et al. v. SIMMONS-HARRIS et al., Concurring.

    “Criminal violence emerges from social experience, most commonly brutal social experience visited upon vulnerable children, who suffer for our neglect of their welfare and return in vengeful wrath to plague us. If violence is a choice they make, and therefor their personal responsibility, as Athens demonstrates it is, our failure to protect them from having to confront such a choice is a choice we make, just as a disease epidemic would be implicitly our choice if we failed to provide vaccines and antibiotics. Such a choice-to tolerate the brutalization of children as we continue to do-is equally violent and equally evil, and we reap what we sow. …” Richard Rhodes, __Why they Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist__.

    This…
    http:[email protected]/

    is what the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s shills defend.

  93. “A national standard, even a bad one, will get more press and attention, and is more likely to get fixed than countless local ones.”

    OK. so somehow we establish a baseline national curriculum that leaves little choice for the states and local school districts (fat chance), and then everyone fights for the same improvements because the deficiencies are more obvious and gets more press. I don’t think so.

    I’ve been fighting against fuzzy, low expectation math for years and years. It’s not all disorganized. It led to the establishment of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel which came out with a report that defines proper “school algebra”. This is about as much consensus as you will ever get, and it isn’t bad. Now what? Who can or would translate this into a national standard or curriculum that establishes specific grade-level requirements of mastery? How do you make sure that mastery is achieved? If you dropped Singapore Math into our schools, kids would still get to fifth grade without knowing their times table. Our school is all about full-inclusion. They are fundamentally opposed to specific grade-level mastery. By definition.

    One of the reasons Everyday Math is so popular is not because it supposedly teaches understanding better, but because the spiraling approach allows them to not worry about mastery “at any one point”. It is designed to appeal to full-inclusion schools. The “understanding” angle is only to give them cover for delayed expectations of mastery. It never gets done.

    This is not a simple problem to solve, and I still don’t see how your top-down approach could even get off the ground.

  94. Physics Teacher says:

    I’ve been fighting against fuzzy, low expectation math for years and years. It’s not all disorganized.

    Good. But you’ve likely been fighting it pretty much alone because people with potential clout know nothing about it because it’s too local an issue.

    One of the reasons Everyday Math is so popular is not because it supposedly teaches understanding better, but because the spiraling approach allows them to not worry about mastery “at any one point”. It is designed to appeal to full-inclusion schools. The “understanding” angle is only to give them cover for delayed expectations of mastery. It never gets done.

    You’ve very likely right. But how much more clout do you think you’d have if the parents of non-LD kids realized that inclusion was screwing their kids?

    Let’s say you’re in some meeting with the school and a bunch of parents of 5th graders. You might claim that EM sucks and is bad for your child as well as for all the other kids. The ed types will condescendingly tell you you’re wrong. Most parents won’t know what to think or they’ll be too afraid to protest. Only parents with good math backgrounds will have grounds to protest and the ed types will say crap like “just because you learned math the traditional way doesn’t mean everyone learns it that way.” Checkmate.

    Suppose teachers from higher grades were in on the debate. Math teachers and science teacher and even college professors, whether or not they have kids in elementary school. These people can unequivocally testify that EM teaches nobody nothin’ and they can cough up the proof when necessary.

    But these people are outside of the loop because the issue is just a local fight between grammar school parents and a particular school district. I still say when the issue is plastered on the national media a lot more can get done.

    This is not a simple problem to solve, and I still don’t see how your top-down approach could even get off the ground.

    How did Prohibition get enacted? I’m not in favor of Prohibition, but it’s an example of what millions of pissed off people can accomplish.

    All movements start with people talking and engaging in debate.

  95. “But you’ve likely been fighting it pretty much alone because people with potential clout know nothing about it because it’s too local an issue.”

    You’re clueless.

  96. Physics Teacher says:

    You’re clueless

    I see you’re a scholar and a gentleman (That’s sarcasm too)

  97. (Steve): “You’re clueless.”
    (PT): “I see you’re a scholar and a gentleman (That’s sarcasm too).”

    PT is an advocate of scholarly style, now? That’s odd, coming from the person who wrote: “If you’re offended, then pony up a rebuttal instead of getting your panties in a twist.”

    Even given the highly unrealistic assumptions of no change in the teacher workforce and no new schools (“musical chairs”, as Physics Teacher described choice), parent control (choice) would improve the match between students and schools, by giving the power to match students with curricula to people who know individual children best and who are most reliably concerned for their welfare. Further, these assumptions (necessary for the characterization of choice as “musical chairs”), do not fit the reality of the education industry. Facilities need not cost much more than books, some basic equipment (desks, lamps, a kitchen) and one adult salary. Consider the Sudbury model. Or homeschoolers. US taxpayers currently spend over $12,000 per pupil year to operate the State-monopoly school system. I believe it we would get better performance for less than $6,000 in a competitive market. Solid evidence indicates that this is possible (historical, international, from homeschoolers and parochial schools).

  98. Physics Teacher says:

    Malcolm,

    Since you’re such an advocate of choice, and you’ve obviously spent quite a bit of time educating yourself, I find it odd that you concern yourself with the education of anyone but yourself. Unlike you your fellow Hawaiians have chosen, apparently, not to educate themselves. From your point of view, the situation is optimal as is: people do as they choose.

    Given the views you’ve expressed, you should be as concerned with the education of others as a Jew in India is concerned with the religion of Hindus, Parsis, and Muslims.

    Just curious.

  99. Physics Teacher says:

    Malcolm,

    Since you love offering links for people to read I thought I’d return the favor:

    http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/more-evidence-on-the-lack-of-impact-of-school-choice/

  100. Physics Teacher says:
  101. Physics Teacher says:

    believe it we would get better performance for less than $6,000 in a competitive market.

    You can’t get daycare for six grand. And it is a competitive market.

    from homeschoolers and parochial schools

    I’m still waiting to hear how the poorly educated people out there are going to successfully homeschool their kids. Oh, and when. It’s interesting that you’re in Hawaii. The locals I met in Hawaii all worked 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. When, and how, they’re supposed to homeschool is beyond me. Many, many, people on the continent work those types of hours too. Then again, maybe you were thinking of Hawaiians like Tom Selleck (I hear he lives on Maui)

    And, I attended parochial schools for a decade. I remember science classes from no more than one single teacher. I simply read every science book cover to cover on my own.

    Parochial schools are another example of selection masquerading as teaching.

  102. Physics Teacher says:

    PT is an advocate of scholarly style, now? That’s odd, coming from the person who wrote: “If you’re offended, then pony up a rebuttal instead of getting your panties in a twist

    In the interests of fairness, Malcolm, the next time Steve finds himself the target of a flame I trust you’ll remind him of his very scholarly “you’re clueless”

    Cheers.

  103. (PT): “Malcolm, Since you love offering links for people to read I thought I’d return the favor: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/04/more-evidence-on-the-lack-of-impact-of-school-choice/

    His conclusion:…

    the school choice program that Julie and Brian analyze is just one kind of school choice (albeit the most common one), operating within a single public school system. It differs from voucher programs or school choice across school districts, and increased competition may be more effective in those settings.

    Giving Food Stamp recipients the choice of any Safeway in town would maintain the Safeway monopoly.

  104. Physics Teacher says:

    His conclusion:…

    I suspected that you would focus on that. As scholars (unlike me, apparently) they are limited to drawing conclusions based on the experiment they performed.

    If substance A and substance B are both suspected by the public to cause cancer, and a detailed study of A reveals no such link, no self-respecting researcher will say anything but “B may cause cancer”. It’s not a conclusion.

    Sorry, it’s no point in your favor.

  105. (PT): “You can’t get daycare for six grand. And it is a competitive market.

    The client to supervisor ratios aren’t the same. Ten kids at $6000 per is $60,000, which is not bad for a rural homeschooling mom. There’s probably lots of inner-city parents who would pay this much to secure their kids from assault and the temptations of drugs and gangs. It’s obviously possible to deliver decent instruction for $6,000, since some other countries and some US parochial schools do it now.

    (PT): “I’m still waiting to hear how the poorly educated people out there are going to successfully homeschool their kids. Oh, and when.

    In Hawaii, “homeschool” is whatever occurs when a parent has filed an application to homeschool and does not enroll her child in a government school. Nothing in the law requires that parents provide homeschooling instruction or that homeschooling instruction occur between the hours of 0800 and 1430. Legally, groups of parents could extend daycare to age 18.

    (PT): “I attended parochial schools for a decade. I remember science classes from no more than one single teacher. I simply read every science book cover to cover on my own.

    You answer your question above. Self-paced progress through a self-selected curriculum. Minus the psychological abuse and peer pressure.

  106. Physics Teacher says:

    Giving Food Stamp recipients the choice of any Safeway in town would maintain the Safeway monopoly

    True, but some Safeways are dumpier than others. Letting food stamp recipients choose which Safeway to patronize should result in miraculous elevation of service.

    There should be no dumpy Safeways.

    Dumpy Safeways should disappear in run-down neighborhoods and reappear all shiny and clean in affluent neighborhoods.

    Food stamp recipients can then choose and go to Safeways in affluent neighborhoods.

    Sounds like a plan to me!

  107. (PT): “http://www.dollarsandsense.org/blog/2006/09/school-choice-lesson-from-new-zealand.html”

    The high-ranked schools are oversubscribed, and as a result need not compete for students. The lower-ranked schools do compete. With what consequences?…Education researchers Helen Ladd and Edward Fiske, who studied New Zealand schools in 2000, found that the most able students benefited, including upwardly-mobile students from poor backgrounds. However the competition for students seriously hurt teacher morale in lower ranked schools.

    If you earn your pay trashing the life chances of poor and minority kids, I hope low morale is the least of your problems.

  108. Physics Teacher says:

    application to homeschool and does not enroll her child in a government

    You still haven’t answered how these people can be educated enough to educate others since you keep saying that Hawaii schools are the worst.

    You also haven’t answered where people are to find the time to homeschool (I’m not talking about Tom Selleck)

    You answer your question above. Self-paced progress through a self-selected curriculum. Minus the psychological abuse and peer pressure.

    That was me. That wasn’t anyone else. Nerds like you and me do not an educated population make. The nerd table was not the nerd tableS.

  109. (PT): “I suspected that you would focus on that. As scholars (unlike me, apparently) they are limited to drawing conclusions based on the experiment they performed. If substance A and substance B are both suspected by the public to cause cancer, and a detailed study of A reveals no such link, no self-respecting researcher will say anything but “B may cause cancer”. It’s not a conclusion. Sorry, it’s no point in your favor.”

    It’s not much of an argument against choice if the experiment studies a policy which restricts parents’ options to schools operated by the State monopoly. At that level, I’d expect marginal gains, below statistical significance.

  110. Physics Teacher says:

    Malcolm,

    What you seemingly ignore given the links I’ve posted is the fact that school choice is by no means as rosy and as cut and dried as you and others pretend. If you could make it “work” in a nation of 300 million you’d likely need far more centralization than someone like you is comfortable with. But this is precisely what the choice crowd insists is impossible to do even marginally well.

  111. Physics Teacher says:

    It’s not much of an argument against choice if the experiment studies a policy which restricts parents’ options to schools operated by the State monopoly. At that level, I’d expect marginal gains, below statistical significance

    If I went out and put a Mermaid trap in my backyard I suspect I would not catch any mermaids. In my report, I’d be obligated to state the conditions of my experiment, adding in my discussion the greater likelyhood of find mermaids on the Jersey Shore.

    Certainly wouldn’t be an argument against mermaids, and I suspect that on the Jersey Shore there are at least creatures with fins.

  112. (PT): “You still haven’t answered how these people can be educated enough to educate others since you keep saying that Hawaii schools are the worst. You also haven’t answered where people are to find the time to homeschool…”

    But I have; parents do not have to be the ones to provide instruction. Ten parents get together, petition to homeschool, hire a college-graduate daughter of a neighbor, send their kids to her house, and go to work. It’s legally possible now (although the bureaucracy threatens parents who propose this). What is missing is support.

    The State of Alaska subsidizes homeschooling a $3000 per student, last I looked. It works: homeschooled children of parents with no education beyond highschool outperform the students of the college-educated teachers in Alaska’s conventional schools. The homeschoolers’ 50th percentile score is close to the 80th percentile score of the students in conventional schools, on Alaska’s standardized assessments. The program is so popular, according to __Education Week__, that some districts lost enrollment to the homeschooling policy.

  113. Physics Teacher says:

    But I have; parents do not have to be the ones to provide instruction. Ten parents get together, petition to homeschool, hire a college-graduate daughter of a neighbor, send their kids to her house, and go to work. It’s legally possible now (although the bureaucracy threatens parents who propose this). What is missing is support.

    How, do tell, are you going to convince people to do this, and why haven’t you?

    In theory, 300 million Americans could simultaneously moon George Bush on Jan 20. Talking everyone into it, I suspect, won’t be that simple.

    I think it would be far easier to get Americans to pressure government to ditch crappy math programs. Yet, your intellectual ally thinks this is “clueless”. If we can’t convince a small number of people to do what we want how are we supposed to get millions to do it.

    Malcolm, this exchange has been fun, but it’s late here on the east coast. Have a good weekend.

  114. (PT): “…school choice is by no means as rosy and as cut and dried as you and others pretend. If you could make it “work” in a nation of 300 million you’d likely need far more centralization than someone like you is comfortable with. But this is precisely what the choice crowd insists is impossible to do even marginally well.

    Watch that “pretend” stuff,
    The conditional “if” in the above puzzles me. I gave an example of the level of centralization I would accept (the credit-by-exam proposal). Here’s another:…

    http://harriettubmanagenda.blogspot.com/2005/12/proposal.html

    Numerous lines of evidence indicate that overall system performance rises as policy-makers shift authority over curricular (and institutional) decisions away from bureaucrats and to parents. “Choice” is not yes/no but a matter of degree.

  115. “You’re clueless.”

    This wasn’t a random evaluation. It related to a specific comment you made and showed that you really don’t know what’s been going on. This affects your whole position, and it showed me that I’m wasting my time.

  116. We have more factual agreement than appears from the style of the discussion. Physics Teachsr attributes many problems to the malign effect of Colleges of Education. I agree. Steve attributes schools’ preference for a spiraling Math curriculum to the imperative for inclusion of low-ability kids. There’s a lot of sense in this comment…
    Steve: http://joannejacobs.com/2008/12/01/nationalizing-education/#comment-86212

    I suggest that these are related, alomst restatements of the same position.

    Physics Teacher has suggested that reform proposals which involve parent control (“choice”: expanded charter schools, school vouchers) will not pass the political process. Basically “Who will bell the cat?” This makes sense. It’s why I recommend homeschooling. Parents cannot afford to wait for the politicians to fix this mess.

    (Steve): “I’ve been fighting against fuzzy, low expectation math for years and years. It’s not all disorganized.
    (PT): “Good. But you’ve likely been fighting it pretty much alone because people with potential clout know nothing about it because it’s too local an issue.
    (Steve)”You’re clueless
    (PT): “I see you’re a scholar and a gentleman (That’s sarcasm too)
    (Steve):

    “You’re clueless.”

    This wasn’t a random evaluation. It related to a specific comment you made and showed that you really don’t know what’s been going on. This affects your whole position, and it showed me that I’m wasting my time

    This was my impression also, but it’s a bit abrupt. We are all ignorant. That’s not a problem. The problem here is that Physics Teacher won’t listen to someone who spent time in the trenches.

    Lame curricula are not accidental, as we agree (see Physics teacher’s comments on Whole Language as well as inept Math instruction). The NCTM had to be pulled down the hall by the scalp, kicking and screaming all the way, to get them to concede that kids won’t invent Math notation by themselves and need to practice.

    One problem with clear, self-paced Math instruction is that it would demonstrate the irrelevance of most teachers. That was the point of my credit-by-exam proposal. Once kids learn to read and to add and subtract rational numbers, which parents of normal kids can accomplish by the time their kids are six years old, they can move at their own speed through well-scripted curricula faster than a class moves. Colleges of Education maintain the pretext of “expertise” on which 90$ of the ponderous education industry relies. The State-monopoly education industry has no interest in efficient operation. “Public education” has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination.

  117. (MK): “…(P)arents do not have to be the ones to provide instruction. Ten parents get together, petition to homeschool, hire a college-graduate daughter of a neighbor, send their kids to her house, and go to work. It’s legally possible now (although the bureaucracy threatens parents who propose this). What is missing is support.
    (PT): “How, do tell, are you going to convince people to do this, and why haven’t you?

    I have convinced a few. http://harriettubmanagenda.blogspot.com/2008/08/whats-linear-differential-operator.html

    (btw, what are the html tags which embed the url?)

    Why not more? I’m up against 150 years of successful State-worshipful indoctrination, an institution with a $500 billion per-year budget, AND College of Education faculty, who are articulate, have a lot of free time, and strong incentives to protect their $80,000 per year, do-nothing jobs.

  118. Physics Teacher says:

    Re: html tags

    I assume you’re talking about blockquote