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Are U.S. schools failing?

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  • Are U.S. schools failing?

    I am interested in exploring a variety of issues pertaining to US public education. Since about the mid-90s and the passage of ESEA, we have been in an era of educational reform. In 2001, the Bush v.2 administration passed No Child Left Behind with some very ambitious goals to reform education by 2014. 2014 has come and gone.

    What has NCLB accomplished? Has it been successful? What are the demonstrable results?

    NCLB was a test-based accountability system: has that worked? What are the main assumptions undergirding test-based accountability?

    Are US school failing? By what indicators do we determine how US schools are doing?

    How does the Common Core fit into this context? What is the desired goal and what are the assumptions of that goal?

    What is the purpose of the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests? How do these tests fit in? What are these tests supposed to do?

    Full disclosure: I have thought about these issues and have strong opinions on them. I am hoping to find arguments that challenge my positions.
    Last edited by grog; 02-22-15, 11:58 AM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by grog View Post
    I am interested in exploring a variety of issues pertaining to US public education.
    ................
    How does the Common Core fit into this context? What is the desired goal and what are the assumptions of that goal?
    I have been curious about the fuss over Common Core and looked at 3rd grade math (lesson 16) from this site:-
    The Most Challenging Common Core Standards Mathematics
    Topic is fractions, and I thought material was good. I realize this is not actual standards but a workbook, but are the standards so hard to interpret that a teacher could not develop a similar lesson plan and teach it with chalk and blackboard to students with pencils and paper?

    With so many students moving from state to state as parents relocate, national standards are desirable. These do not seem too difficult and why should we need to keep dumbing things down?

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Keith C View Post
      I have been curious about the fuss over Common Core and looked at 3rd grade math (lesson 16) from this site:-
      The Most Challenging Common Core Standards Mathematics
      Topic is fractions, and I thought material was good. I realize this is not actual standards but a workbook, but are the standards so hard to interpret that a teacher could not develop a similar lesson plan and teach it with chalk and blackboard to students with pencils and paper?

      With so many students moving from state to state as parents relocate, national standards are desirable. These do not seem too difficult and why should we need to keep dumbing things down?
      I have nothing against standards in general or the Common Core, in general. What are your thoughts about tying the Common Core to standardized testing like the Smarter Balanced and PARCC?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by grog View Post
        I have nothing against standards in general or the Common Core, in general. What are your thoughts about tying the Common Core to standardized testing like the Smarter Balanced and PARCC?
        I am not familiar with either, but did read this:-
        What is the Big Difference Between PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

        It seems that both hope to be replacements for the ACT but based on Common Core standards.
        Colleges need some test for entrance because schools differ so much in standards that they can not rely on school grades and teacher recommendations. If common core really was in place everywhere, and applied uniformly, then perhaps these tests will fade away.

        I am not in favor of standardized testing. They are designed to be 'efficient', which means the average student will get about 50% of the questions right. That tends to discourage students. I think a test should have more questions, so the subject could be covered more completely, and questions would generally be easier but the pass mark would be set in the range 80-90% correct. This would give students opportunity to demonstrate what they know and remove some of the test anxiety.

        Another problem with standardized testing is that the questions are used in multiple years, which makes security a problem.
        I think it is preferable to use non-standardized tests, with completely new questions asked each year. The questions should also be published after use, so parents know what their children have mastered. That would also help schools and next-years test-takers to prepare.

        The only beneficiaries of standardized tests are the test preparation companies.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Keith C View Post
          I am not familiar with either, but did read this:-
          What is the Big Difference Between PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

          It seems that both hope to be replacements for the ACT but based on Common Core standards.
          Colleges need some test for entrance because schools differ so much in standards that they can not rely on school grades and teacher recommendations. If common core really was in place everywhere, and applied uniformly, then perhaps these tests will fade away.
          Isn't it just an assumption that school grades and recommendations are not reliable? In fact, school grades are a more reliable indicator of success at the college level than SAT or ACT test scores, a fact known for decades (see for example, Halpin, Halpin, & Schaer, (1981)). In fact, a study of the SAT in particular found that the SAT was poor indicator of success for students above the age of 30 and African-American students (Moffat, 1993). I think it is huge leap in logic to conclude that inconsistencies in school grades automatically make a standardized entrance exam more reliable. The evidence just doesn't support that conclusion.

          I am not in favor of standardized testing. They are designed to be 'efficient', which means the average student will get about 50% of the questions right. That tends to discourage students. I think a test should have more questions, so the subject could be covered more completely, and questions would generally be easier but the pass mark would be set in the range 80-90% correct. This would give students opportunity to demonstrate what they know and remove some of the test anxiety.
          It depends on the purpose of the test. In fact, this was the logic behind many state standardized tests, but the current thinking is that too many students were passing those tests. When compared to the NAEP there was a gap in state performance and proficiency as measured by the NAEP. US students were also not comparing well to international students. That's the underlying rationale for implementing SBAC/PARCC tests to replace the state tests.


          Another problem with standardized testing is that the questions are used in multiple years, which makes security a problem.
          I think it is preferable to use non-standardized tests, with completely new questions asked each year. The questions should also be published after use, so parents know what their children have mastered. That would also help schools and next-years test-takers to prepare.

          The only beneficiaries of standardized tests are the test preparation companies.
          I mostly agree with your last point. I do think there is a place for standardized testing, for example, to identify children who require extra assistance or are falling behind. Security would not be a problem if tests weren't tied to teacher and school evaluation and only used for what they are intended: as a temperature reading on how kids are doing. When you tie testing to evaluation or even to graduation requirements, gaming starts to happen. Strategies for improving tests scores are introduced and more time is put into test preparation training. This has been a big problem in China for a long time where an inordinate amount of time is spent learning how to take tests because test scores traditionally have been all that matters. All this leads to the problem of score inflation where scores no longer indicate what a student has learned, but are more indicative of a teacher's knowledge of the test and effectiveness in teaching to the test.

          It is a known fact that no standardized test can test the full range of knowledge that a student has acquired and must focus on certain important facets. This also means the test does not capture all that the student has learned. The new tests, SBAC in particular, have to problem that they have not demonstrated construct validity, testing what they claim to test. It's well-known that these tests require much more reading and writing on the math. So is it math that is tested or reading and writing? I think there will be quite a bit of overlap in those constructs.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by grog View Post
            Isn't it just an assumption that school grades and recommendations are not reliable? In fact, school grades are a more reliable indicator of success at the college level than SAT or ACT test scores, a fact known for decades (see for example, Halpin, Halpin, & Schaer, (1981)). In fact, a study of the SAT in particular found that the SAT was poor indicator of success for students above the age of 30 and African-American students (Moffat, 1993). I think it is huge leap in logic to conclude that inconsistencies in school grades automatically make a standardized entrance exam more reliable. The evidence just doesn't support that conclusion.

            It depends on the purpose of the test. In fact, this was the logic behind many state standardized tests, but the current thinking is that too many students were passing those tests. When compared to the NAEP there was a gap in state performance and proficiency as measured by the NAEP. US students were also not comparing well to international students. That's the underlying rationale for implementing SBAC/PARCC tests to replace the state tests.

            I mostly agree with your last point. I do think there is a place for standardized testing, for example, to identify children who require extra assistance or are falling behind. Security would not be a problem if tests weren't tied to teacher and school evaluation and only used for what they are intended: as a temperature reading on how kids are doing. When you tie testing to evaluation or even to graduation requirements, gaming starts to happen. Strategies for improving tests scores are introduced and more time is put into test preparation training. This has been a big problem in China for a long time where an inordinate amount of time is spent learning how to take tests because test scores traditionally have been all that matters. All this leads to the problem of score inflation where scores no longer indicate what a student has learned, but are more indicative of a teacher's knowledge of the test and effectiveness in teaching to the test.

            It is a known fact that no standardized test can test the full range of knowledge that a student has acquired and must focus on certain important facets. This also means the test does not capture all that the student has learned. The new tests, SBAC in particular, have to problem that they have not demonstrated construct validity, testing what they claim to test. It's well-known that these tests require much more reading and writing on the math. So is it math that is tested or reading and writing? I think there will be quite a bit of overlap in those constructs.
            While there are many factors involved in evaluating student and teacher performance standardized testing has to be a major tool in that evaluation.

            The foundation of all education is memorization. You either know the multiplication tables or you don't. Either you can read, comprehend and explain the paragraph you read in your native language or you can't. Either you know the composition of water is H2O or you don't. Either you know the commander that lead the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War was George Washington or you don't. I don't think a discussion of critical thinking skills is in order until an individual has some command of the fundamental skill (reading, writing, history, math and science). In these areas, at least with respect to the fundamentals, you do teach to the test.

            In my opinion the greatest failure of the educational system takes place in the home rather than in the school. The first educators a child is going to have contact with are his parents. Unfortunately in to many situations (70% in the minority community) it has become his parent (singular) and in too many cases a parent very much lacking with respect to their education. The publics expectation is that these kids are going to show up at school and our system of education is going to somehow make-up for that lack putting teachers in a very difficult position.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by grog View Post
              Are US school failing?
              Don't be silly. When comparing the U.S. to other countries disaggregated based on poverty, the U.S. schools with less than 10% lead the world.

              The problem is...we are among world leaders in child poverty.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by 1mickey1 View Post
                Don't be silly. When comparing the U.S. to other countries disaggregated based on poverty, the U.S. schools with less than 10% lead the world.

                The problem is...we are among world leaders in child poverty.
                I just heard of a school where children were taking ketchup packets home from their school lunches. To mix it with water and make "ketchup soup" for dinner.

                When the politicians make their plans for standardized testing, they don't take any of this into consideration--all the PARENTING modern teachers do. It sounds like so much more "teacher whining" but it really is not. As the American family has disintegrated, schools are expected to pick up the slack. To no one's shock, students are floundering. But then, also to no one's shock, they are floundering academically. So here come the politicians tightening the screws on teachers--saying take these hurting children and teach them MORE, FASTER, and YOUNGER. Do it, or lose your job.

                The most excellent, dedicated, professional teachers I know--and I teach in a top-notch district--are telling their children NOT to go into education.

                And that is scary, folks.
                One thing have I asked of the LORD... that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.--Psalm 27:4

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by 2edgesword View Post
                  While there are many factors involved in evaluating student and teacher performance standardized testing has to be a major tool in that evaluation.

                  The foundation of all education is memorization. You either know the multiplication tables or you don't. Either you can read, comprehend and explain the paragraph you read in your native language or you can't. Either you know the composition of water is H2O or you don't. Either you know the commander that lead the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War was George Washington or you don't. I don't think a discussion of critical thinking skills is in order until an individual has some command of the fundamental skill (reading, writing, history, math and science). In these areas, at least with respect to the fundamentals, you do teach to the test.

                  In my opinion the greatest failure of the educational system takes place in the home rather than in the school. The first educators a child is going to have contact with are his parents. Unfortunately in to many situations (70% in the minority community) it has become his parent (singular) and in too many cases a parent very much lacking with respect to their education. The publics expectation is that these kids are going to show up at school and our system of education is going to somehow make-up for that lack putting teachers in a very difficult position.
                  I agree that teaching facts and memorization is the start of education - and in many cases it never went much beyond that.
                  However, in order to be able to hold a well-paying job in 2060 or later, much more is going to be required.

                  I think kids have to be taught to be proficient on math and reading. Targets for speed and accuracy in arithmetic and reading speed and comprehension at different grade levels seem the minimum. Schools should also teach geography, history, essay writing, and current affairs appropriate to grade level.

                  I do not think standardized tests are necessary, just the method which the testing industry prefers. I favor encouraging kids to persevere in learning rather than relying on natural brilliance. US system of community colleges is good way to let people get back to an academic or vocational course, but better if they never get off that track.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by grog View Post
                    I am interested in exploring a variety of issues pertaining to US public education. Since about the mid-90s and the passage of ESEA, we have been in an era of educational reform. In 2001, the Bush v.2 administration passed No Child Left Behind with some very ambitious goals to reform education by 2014. 2014 has come and gone.

                    What has NCLB accomplished? Has it been successful? What are the demonstrable results?

                    NCLB was a test-based accountability system: has that worked? What are the main assumptions undergirding test-based accountability?

                    Are US school failing? By what indicators do we determine how US schools are doing?

                    How does the Common Core fit into this context? What is the desired goal and what are the assumptions of that goal?

                    What is the purpose of the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests? How do these tests fit in? What are these tests supposed to do?

                    Full disclosure: I have thought about these issues and have strong opinions on them. I am hoping to find arguments that challenge my positions.
                    Could it be that schools are failing, not so much because of some testing, or the teachers lack of teaching properly. But due to lack of God's Word and godly morals taught at young ages, the lack of common courtesy's being learned, lack of respect for authority and lawless behavior that contributes to our children's poor learning ability?
                    Could it be that when we don't allow for the teacher to discipline her students as needed, to allow them the Rights to restrain disruptive children from those who desire to learn, that we enable that child to ruin it for other's, and we tie the hands of the teacher so that the lawless one never get's true instruction for his bad behavior, to his own detriment as well? Isn't it because the parents who send an ungodly/undisciplined child to school, looking forward to getting him, whom they raised to be this way, out of their hair for a few hours of PEACE, So they dump them in the hands of their poor teacher with the other 29 children (each with their issues as well), to have to deal with?
                    And in the parents error, and to their own child's demise, they rant and rave, how dare the teacher discipline my loving child(even though they have the same problems with them at home) thereby defending the lawless child, so that he/she can see the manipulative devotion that their parent has to them, and so he continues to act in a manner that ruins himself, his family name, his classroom mates, the teacher, and will grow up to be nothing more than a burden in society and cost tax payers money and eventually they all together ruin the integrity of their nation as well.

                    And that is why we have to now, put gun towers in the school, to protect themselves from the good children, whom now turn to killing sprees being subjected to these lawless bullies and trouble makers in their own schools, the bad seeds, whom could have been otherwise had someone cared enough to Keep the Word of God in the classrooms, instead of handing it to them in Prison later on when it is far to late and their lives are ruined.
                    Failing schools or teachers are a result of our bad parenting that has been handed down from generations, and our fear of God's Word being taught in the classroom so to let our, "Have it your way" laws be passed. When we neglect to teach our children, thou shalt not steal, kill, hate, lie, cheat, fornicate or be immoral, then guess what? We get eat of the fruit we produced in our child from those seeds we planted and let grow in them.
                    Then little by little they grow up to rule over us in the same lawless ways WE taught them how to with our own ungodly teachings.

                    Prov 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
                    KJV
                    There are two forms of Rod meant here. One is the Word of God, meant for getting wisdom so that the crooked sinner needs only to be spoken to, which changes his ways by receiving the Truth of God's Word as his correction and it immediately sets him straight or upright.
                    But when that does not work, then God has another rod of authority, for all governing authority is ordained by God to keep the trouble makers separate from the peace loving. That rod is the physical punishment. Some are wise and can just be corrected with a Word of wisdom, and others must Feel the rod where it hurts the most to get them to straighten up
                    Last edited by afaithfulone4u; 03-30-15, 02:47 PM.
                    The purpose of my posts are not to cause bicker or division, but to show truth from the scripture for edifying of the soul. It does not matter what we think, it is what God's Word says that matters.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 2edgesword View Post
                      While there are many factors involved in evaluating student and teacher performance standardized testing has to be a major tool in that evaluation.
                      That sounds like an assertion. What research supports the view that standardized testing has to be a major tool in teacher performance? Studies show that accountability based on standardized testing does not actually increase student performance. We have a test, the NAEP, that provides an outside check on NCLB accountability. If we look at NAEP results, especially for high school students who are the end product after all, there has been no change in either NAEP or PISA course since the implementation of NCLB and high stakes testing.

                      The foundation of all education is memorization. You either know the multiplication tables or you don't. Either you can read, comprehend and explain the paragraph you read in your native language or you can't. Either you know the composition of water is H2O or you don't. Either you know the commander that lead the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War was George Washington or you don't. I don't think a discussion of critical thinking skills is in order until an individual has some command of the fundamental skill (reading, writing, history, math and science). In these areas, at least with respect to the fundamentals, you do teach to the test.
                      Well, you'd have a hard sell on this one. See if you can get a Ted Talk based on this innovative thought.

                      In my opinion the greatest failure of the educational system takes place in the home rather than in the school. The first educators a child is going to have contact with are his parents. Unfortunately in to many situations (70% in the minority community) it has become his parent (singular) and in too many cases a parent very much lacking with respect to their education. The publics expectation is that these kids are going to show up at school and our system of education is going to somehow make-up for that lack putting teachers in a very difficult position.
                      I partially agree with this. The problem is that the issue of race and education is really intertwined with socioeconomic status. Poor white children perform at lower levels, as well. The best predictor of test score is SES (and vice versa, you can guess fairly accurately the SES of a student by test score, certainly better than chance alone).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Keith C View Post
                        I agree that teaching facts and memorization is the start of education - and in many cases it never went much beyond that.
                        However, in order to be able to hold a well-paying job in 2060 or later, much more is going to be required.

                        I think kids have to be taught to be proficient on math and reading. Targets for speed and accuracy in arithmetic and reading speed and comprehension at different grade levels seem the minimum. Schools should also teach geography, history, essay writing, and current affairs appropriate to grade level.

                        I do not think standardized tests are necessary, just the method which the testing industry prefers. I favor encouraging kids to persevere in learning rather than relying on natural brilliance. US system of community colleges is good way to let people get back to an academic or vocational course, but better if they never get off that track.
                        Keith, I agree with almost everything here. I don't know how important speed is, other than as a demonstration of fluency. Standardized tests assess narrowly defined constructs, and, these days, only math and reading matter. Writing tests have been shown to be unreliable due to inter-rater reliability problems (for starters). The problems were so overwhelming that the SAT discontinued its brief flirtation with the notion.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by WendyWrites View Post
                          I just heard of a school where children were taking ketchup packets home from their school lunches. To mix it with water and make "ketchup soup" for dinner.

                          When the politicians make their plans for standardized testing, they don't take any of this into consideration--all the PARENTING modern teachers do. It sounds like so much more "teacher whining" but it really is not. As the American family has disintegrated, schools are expected to pick up the slack. To no one's shock, students are floundering. But then, also to no one's shock, they are floundering academically. So here come the politicians tightening the screws on teachers--saying take these hurting children and teach them MORE, FASTER, and YOUNGER. Do it, or lose your job.

                          The most excellent, dedicated, professional teachers I know--and I teach in a top-notch district--are telling their children NOT to go into education.

                          And that is scary, folks.
                          For once, I agree with you. They want to take the common core down to 3 years old, with testing.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by grog View Post
                            Keith, I agree with almost everything here. I don't know how important speed is, other than as a demonstration of fluency. Standardized tests assess narrowly defined constructs, and, these days, only math and reading matter. Writing tests have been shown to be unreliable due to inter-rater reliability problems (for starters). The problems were so overwhelming that the SAT discontinued its brief flirtation with the notion.
                            For another view on the need for testing:-
                            Is it a student’s civil right to take a federally mandated standardized test?

                            I think standardized tests need to be replaced by better tests, but the tests need to be carefully designed. Objective should be to demonstrate what students have learned rather than to rank students by achievement level. Tests should contain a relatively large number of questions covering all aspects of the material taught in that period, with new questions prepared each year. Teaching to the test should be identical to teaching the subject.
                            All schools in a county could use the same test, tied very closely to the curriculum, and computer-graded. Test results should be given immediately to teachers, so remedial instruction can be given. Principles would receive summary comparing results for all grades, all minorities, and all schools. Individual questions should be relatively easy, so that an average student gets at least 85% correct. Less than 70% correct would require remedial instruction.
                            An exam, similar to these routine tests, but covering all the material covered in the previous semester should be given immediately at the start of each new semester. Results of this test might be useful for evaluation of the teacher from the previous semester. Parents could receive exam papers, their children's answers and the curriculum outline so they can see how the test questions relate to what should have been taught.
                            If the semester tests were prepared and used by a whole state or group of states, results from individual schools and individual students could be directly compared, despite the absence of 'standardization'.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Could it be that schools are failing, not so much because of some testing, or the teachers lack of teaching properly. But due to lack of God's Word and godly morals taught at young ages, the lack of common courtesy's being learned, lack of respect for authority and lawless behavior that contributes to our children's poor learning ability?
                              Just my own opinion here, but no. Schools are failing because of the politicization of the education system, because for whatever the reasons (and, I suppose they are numerous) we, as a nation are not putting the enough money in the right areas, and frankly, we do not tend to regard, or pay teachers enough to attract the best and the brightest. Add to all of that everybodies differing opinion as to what is proper, and what is not, what is revisionism and what is real, what makes for a good curriculum and what does not, etc.
                              People can make all the claims they want about charters, etc. But there is a reason that people are increasingly turning away from government schools, and turning toward charters and/or homeschooling. I personally believe that trust in govco, or lack thereof, to be able to adequately teach our youth is a #1 issue. Add to that, as a poster here has mentioned, teachers are increasingly becoming less teachers and more babysitters. I have other thoughts as well, but not sure they are the issue here.
                              For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation will suffice. Unknowm Author

                              "That's Nice" Agnes Brown

                              ďItís the Holy Spiritís job to convict, Godís job to judge, and itís my job to love.Ē

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