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Three Unexpected Data Points Describe Elementary School Quality 343

Posted by timothy
from the real-estate-value-is-a-simpler-proxy dept.
garthsundem writes with a link to his story in Wired, according to which "Test scores and student/teacher ratio are nearly meaningless. But three new numbers do describe school quality: 1. (Test Scores/Parent Education): How do scores outpace expectations? 2. Test Score Growth: Any single score can be socioeconomics, but growth is due to the school. 3. (Teacher Salary*%Highly Qualified/Teacher Age): The best teachers will become highly qualified early, and will gravitate toward the best paying jobs." These factors seem to be at least interesting starting points; if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?
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Three Unexpected Data Points Describe Elementary School Quality

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  • by SaroDarksbane (1784314) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:19AM (#38981653)

    if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?

    Homeschooling?

    • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:27AM (#38981755)

      Even if you are being funny I think enhancing in-school education with some homeschooling is the best option. Parents sitting down with their children and going over their homework with them can make up for almost any crappy school. Assuming, of course, that the parents aren't less-knowledgeable about a subject than their children.

      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:38AM (#38981923)

        Not to mention covering the huge gaps public education tends to leave out... personal finance in particular. I graduated high school six years ago and the closest we got to personal finance was a lesson on how to balance a checkbook... nothing about making decisions, weighing options, etc. Fortunately, my parents have been pretty money savvy, so I'm doing much better in overall quality of life than most of the people I graduated with - even those in much higher paying fields.

        • by networkBoy (774728) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:25PM (#38982691) Homepage Journal

          We seriously considered homeschool, we settled on one school and entered open enrollment. We were waitlisted, so we went homeschool, until our position in the waitlist came up. The tipping point was that in homeschool it is harder to give your children a real world social education. You will sign them up for Soccer, Swimming, Baseball, Whatever, but this will be full of kids with reasonably like minded parents, which means your kids will be exposed to a relatively homogenous social environment. The world is not like that.
          Our outlook is that school is primarily for the social education: pecking orders, dealing with bullies, understanding that differences in race, creed, socioeconomic status are not bad. Hard education (reading, writing, arithmetic) are actually secondary and are taught at home through the "unschooling" methodology whenever possible.
          In a nutshell unschooling is the idea that simply drilling math, science, etc. into a child's head is likely to make them resentful of the subject. Instead use applied math when doing fun things like cooking (an excellent way to teach reading, fractions, weights, measures, burn treatment, and first aid). Similar applied education when shopping, going to the zoo, having a pet and accounting for the costs involved, etc.
          The upside: Very smart, reasonably well adjusted children. The downside: requires over double the effort as a parent compared to just dropping your kids off at school every day. The way I look at it, you are a parent, this is a job you are morally required to do.
          -nB

          • Sign your kid up for public school and age group sports and you won't have that problem. I was home schooled, and I know more people with social problems who were not home schooled than those who were (there are certainly a few, so it can clearly be done wrong as well).

            I really don't understand this objection to home schooling. As far as I can tell the social skills predominantly learned in high school are nearly useless in the real world. Just look at any incoming freshman college class, they learn more re

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I think the whole social experience thing is bullshit. When I was in school, I basically got bullied constantly, first for having glasses and I thought that was pretty bad, but it only really started when somehow the word got out that I liked to read. (And this was at a school with a good reputation; I shudder to think what might have happened at a bad-- worse school.)
            The experience has fundamentally put me off people, which may have been a good lesson because people aren't all that great, but there must be

      • by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:40AM (#38981961)

        Parents sitting down with their children over their homework has 10x the effect on the overall education and outlook of the children than the quality of the school itself. Even *if* the parents are less knowledgeable than their children - putting a value on education is what is important.

        The common thread with every overachieving nerd I've known is that they were taught from an early age to enjoy learning, and that knowledge was important - long before they actually got to elementary school.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by berashith (222128)

          yup. Books in the home is another interesting metric. If the parents live by an example of valuing knowledge and information then that may actually be picked up on by the kids.

          • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:18PM (#38982615)

            yup. Books in the home is another interesting metric.

            Steven Levy addressed this in his book "Freakonomics". He found that although "books in the home" is correlated with better performance in school, once you correct for the IQ of the parents, it actually makes no difference at all.

            People come up with a lot of "theory of the day" explanations for improving education, but the biggest determinants of a child's performance are the IQ of the biological parents, and their birth weight. Instead of spending billions on the schools, maybe we should first spend 0.001% of that on folic acid supplements for pregnant women, and encouraging breast feeding. It would make a bigger difference.

            • by jpstanle (1604059)

              yup. Books in the home is another interesting metric.

              Steven Levy addressed this in his book "Freakonomics". He found that although "books in the home" is correlated with better performance in school, once you correct for the IQ of the parents, it actually makes no difference at all.

              People come up with a lot of "theory of the day" explanations for improving education, but the biggest determinants of a child's performance are the IQ of the biological parents, and their birth weight. Instead of spending billions on the schools, maybe we should first spend 0.001% of that on folic acid supplements for pregnant women, and encouraging breast feeding. It would make a bigger difference.

              Hmm, I just wanted to say I found your point and the GP's point to be particularly interesting. I consider myself to be on the upper end of the intellectual bell curve, though far from a genius or savant. I read the point about books and thought, "Wow, I grew up in a home full of technical books. Computers, programming, science, mathematics, engineering, I found them all to be utterly fascinating, even when I was too young to understand 90% of their contents. That really did help me develop an appreciation

            • by mcgrew (92797) *

              Not as big a difference as getting women to stop drinking alcohol while they're pregnant. Also to keep them from physical labor; my oldest daughter is learning-disabled because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck when she was born. Better doctors, too -- the doctor was going to send Evil-X home despite the fact that she was in labor. A nurse probably saved both their lives by arguing with the doctor.

              An awful lot has already been done. They used to use lead in gasoline, and kids who grew up by bus

            • by snowgirl (978879) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @01:45PM (#38984161) Journal

              Instead of spending billions on the schools, maybe we should first spend 0.001% of that on folic acid supplements for pregnant women, and encouraging breast feeding. It would make a bigger difference.

              Eh... I was born before folic acid supplements were common, and my mom was discouraged from breast feeding (long story, medical condition, her health was more important than any benefits from breast feeding). I am however on the IQ scale a "genius", and I regularly aced tests in education. Standardized tests regularly place me in the top 99%.

              You seem to be to advancing a "theory of the day" as well that folic acid and breast feeding help. Meanwhile, as you noted, the parent's IQ has more correlation with the child's IQ than anything else. This could be because of genetic stock, but as well, just a whole culture and attitude about learning. A high IQ parent has both nature and nurture to maximize their child's IQ.

        • Parents sitting down with their children over their homework has 10x the effect on the overall education and outlook of the children than the quality of the school itself. Even *if* the parents are less knowledgeable than their children - putting a value on education is what is important.

          This.

          I live in a large mid-western college town. Recently a PhD I work with told me that he's decided to send his kids to one particular elementary school, a public school near the University campus. The school is actually somewhat inconvenient for his family - it's not anywhere near where they live. So why send the kids there? Because this particular school has the quantitatively the highest student achievement of the 20+ elementary schools in the area.

          Except, what he didn't realize is the selection bias o

          • Though this probably means that the classroom atmosphere is filled with like minded students. Thus, creating a better atmosphere for learning and advancement.

            The other students in the room are as important as the teacher is. If the teachers have to take away from teaching to deal with students who are not there to learn, everyone suffers.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by garthsundem (1702946)
        I would agree completely if it weren't for this: despite the fact that I write about the science of education and my wife is a former spectacular teacher, our kids learn better from teachers other than us. For example, we started skiing this year -- my wife and I had our 5yo in a ski harness. Two lessons later with the "Eldorables" program and he's snowplowing independently like a bowling ball on stilts. The same is true of writing -- my wife and I would set up spectacularly fun writing and drawing projects
        • Maybe you arent quite as good at teaching, and you happen to be an area with good public school teachers. I went to public schools, and had some truly fantastic teachers (with only one or two that I would say were not very good). Theres nothing wrong with that; the truly important thing (AFAIK) is parent involvement of whatever kind.

          My understanding is that many parents feel like the situation is reversed, however-- particularly as you get into DC. Many feel like the public schools are bad enough or that

      • by tthomas48 (180798)

        As long as you don't factor socialization as something schools teach. Which I do. Especially since I was home schooled for 2 years and know many home schooled adults. And no special home schooling outings don't count. The socialization schools provide is being with people you don't like day-in day-out. That's a real life skill.

      • That's not homeschooling. That is just what one is supposed to do as a parent. That anyone would put their trust in the average teacher to do it right is beyond me. And most of them ARE average or worse. A good teacher is a rare thing.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Unfortunately, the schools themselves ofen make this difficult to impossible. When I was in grade school they came up with the "new math". They didn't teach division the same way my parents learned division so could not help at all, and unfortunately my teacher that year was one of the worst I ever had. It took a lomg time to catch up in math (and fortunetaly I was smart enough to learn to use a slide rule, which none of my teachers knew how to use). Had they taught the traditional way (which they went back

    • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:28AM (#38981767)
      Someone modded this Funny, they must think you are being ironic. Given the current state of US schools touting SOL scores and pushing the curriculum for, I'd say parent is Insightful.
    • by Necroman (61604) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:32AM (#38981823)

      Homeschooling is a good option if you have parents that are up for the challenge. My wife plans on homeschooling our kids, as she was home schooled herself (along with her 2 sisters). Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap because it is portraid by either the crazy people or ultra religious people. There are plenty of normal families that homeschool their kids and they turn out just fine, don't be distracted by the crazies.

      • by mdarksbane (587589) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:45AM (#38982067)

        I really want to believe you, and maybe as homeschooling becomes more of a normal thing, it will happen.. but I've volunteered with homeschool groups and had many classmates who were home schooled for their earlier education... and I've never met one that I'd say was well-adjusted. It could be that given their parents, they would be poorly adjusted nerds anyway - but as much as I am tempted, it makes me really scared to try it with my children (or are likely to be on the nerdy end of the spectrum to begin with).

        The best results I've seen are my neighbor's kids, who interact very well with adults, but who seem like they will get eaten alive when they go off to college and have to deal with people who aren't inherently nice, logical, and having their best interests at heart.

        • by chispito (1870390)

          I've volunteered with homeschool groups and had many classmates who were home schooled for their earlier education... and I've never met one that I'd say was well-adjusted.

          My experience is 100% the opposite. I suppose it depends on your definition of "well-adjusted." My nephew went from homeschool to public elementary, and so far has been disappointed how much time is wasted, and that he can't just finish all his homework in class. (And presumably go home at lunch time).

          but who seem like they will get eaten alive when they go off to college and have to deal with people who aren't inherently nice, logical, and having their best interests at heart.

          Homeschool is far more similar to college than traditional schools are. You teach yourself at your own pace. There are also obvious social benefits: good kids get to be good and bad kids don't spoil things for

          • by torgis (840592)

            I've volunteered with homeschool groups and had many classmates who were home schooled for their earlier education... and I've never met one that I'd say was well-adjusted.

            My experience is 100% the opposite. I suppose it depends on your definition of "well-adjusted." My nephew went from homeschool to public elementary, and so far has been disappointed how much time is wasted, and that he can't just finish all his homework in class. (And presumably go home at lunch time).

            Exactly. Many homeschool kids are very outgoing, gregarious, self-confident, and eager to speak their mind. This is because they haven't had to endure years of soul-crushing social conditioning in which they learn that differing opinions are mocked and intelligence is best kept hidden for fear of being too "nerdy". People in society are not used to seeing self-confident children and say, "Oh look, that kid is strange because he is able to articulate what he is thinking."

            I just don't understand why we wor

        • To a little extent, I agree with you. I was entirely homeschooled, and I was (and still am) somewhat socially inexperienced. The greater part of that is due more to my own solitary nature, though -- I'm a /. reader, after all. :) My sisters were also homeschooled and are extremely outgoing, and even I'm not a complete loss. Most people wouldn't guess any of us were homeschooled, and are surprised if we tell them.

          We also weren't exclusively stay-at-home kids. If you want to homeschool your kids, I think it's

        • The best results I've seen are my neighbor's kids, who interact very well with adults, but who seem like they will get eaten alive when they go off to college and have to deal with people who aren't inherently nice, logical, and having their best interests at heart.

          Theres worse problems to have, like being poorly educated or having a poor relationship with your parents.

        • There's the rub - kids who are largely homeschooled usually (almost universally?) wind up missing out on a huge swath of humanity that traditionally schooled kids are exposed to from the get go. That's a byproduct of the largely controlled environment at home and parents who will screen people (consciously or not) who come into contact with their kids.

          Some of the absolute worst people I've ever met in my life I met while I was a kid in school. Despite being awful people, they helped me develop a pretty thic

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        Homeschooling is a good option if you have parents that are up for the challenge. My wife plans on homeschooling our kids, as she was home schooled herself (along with her 2 sisters). Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap because it is portraid by either the crazy people or ultra religious people. There are plenty of normal families that homeschool their kids and they turn out just fine, don't be distracted by the crazies.

        Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap because the public education establishment... read "teacher's unions"... have been trying to kill it ever since the movement started growing. They can't kill off private schools... too many in the political class send their kids there... but they can kill off homeschooling with enough political support from that class. And you know what? Every time you say something demeaning about those that homeschool ("crazies"), you help those trying to kill it by repeating their memes

    • Science education (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?

      Homeschooling?

      For decent science and math education, homeschooling may be the only choice. And no, it's not all the Bible thumpers' fault.

    • by Walter White (1573805) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:42AM (#38982023)

      I've always considered the single most important determinant in scholastic success to be my involvement in our childrens education. I didn't consider home schooling because I didn't have the time or inclination to do so and I wanted our children to be in the social situation that school provides. My involvement was twofold. First is helping with homework and asking about what is being taught. Second is adhering to practices that emphasize the value of education. For example, we never pulled our children out of school for an extra day or two of vacation. That simply sends the wrong message.

      I suspect the parent was not meant to be funny.

    • by Picass0 (147474) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:59AM (#38982313) Homepage Journal

      It's unfortunate that politicians and bible thumpers have added a stigma to the idea of parents helping their children learn. I also get sick of parents who pretend they are doing their kids a favor by sheltering them from big bad public schools. I imagine the majority of parents who home-school are really dropping a stack of books in front of their kids and telling them "do it".

      Parents involving themselves in their children's learning makes a difference. I don't pretend to be an educator and I think my kids have decent teachers. My two very bright girls attend a public school and there's no doubt in my mind they will someday plot to take over the world.

      I have two children in 3rd grade at a local elementary. A typical evening it takes ~one hour to help them both with homework. That homework always includes a short book followed by writing a paragraph about the story. Next there's a list of 20 spelling words they must memorize for a Friday quiz. Recently we've been working on division and multiplication flash cards as they are doing timed tests. I also stuck an app on their itouchs with timed math games. They also bring home a "blue sheet" which must be signed every evening where my wife or myself pledge we reviewed and assisted with homework.

      Every semester my wife and I are surprised by the number of other parents who skip parent-teacher conferences.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by LordLimecat (1103839)

        It's unfortunate that politicians and bible thumpers have added a stigma to the idea of parents helping their children learn.

        Lets be clear here-- its not "bible thumpers" that added a stigma to it. Its comments and thoughts which assume that any religious thought makes you a moron (no matter how well educated you are, or how well you do on tests / entrance exams).

        I imagine the majority of parents who home-school are really dropping a stack of books in front of their kids and telling them "do it".

        That MAY be, but I have known many homeschool parents, and not one of them has done that. But possibly its because theyre crazy bible thumper parents who actually care about their kid and about their education.

        Every semester my wife and I are surprised by the number of other parents who skip parent-teacher conferences.

        The attitude you described above seems far more common in p

      • by DesScorp (410532)

        It's unfortunate that politicians and bible thumpers have added a stigma to the idea of parents helping their children learn.

        No, it's unfortunate that guys like you mock religious people that want their kids to get a better education.

    • Okay, so if I'm being honest, school quality is only one factor among many in our school choice conundrum. In addition, we're weighing the desire to seat our kids in the community of our neighborhood school along with the kids we see in our 'burb everyday. And then there's the commute. And potential tuition at privates. And much, much more. With, like 1000 true variables in addition to education quality, how oh how can parent's make a rational choice? Er....
  • ceteris paribus (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CSMoran (1577071) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:20AM (#38981677) Journal

    2. Test Score Growth: Any single score can be socioeconomics, but growth is due to the school.

    ... if you can keep all other factors constant by freeze-framing the rest of the world.

    • This also breaks down with a small sample size. My school had a typical grade size of 50-70 students. Between 4th and 6th grade, it wouldn't be unusual for 4 or 5 kids to leave and an equal or greater number to come in from elsewhere. If the kids leaving were generally underperformers and the ones coming in were generally overperformers, then the test score growth figures would be pretty skewed. In cases of developing or revitalized areas, this would be a likely trend as people of lower socioeconomic statu

  • Chances are, I would trust to the experience of my friends and relatives in their experiences of particular schools. Experience in the UK would suggest that once metrics become well known, schools/hospitals/whoever work to manipulate the results. Surveys of actual recent experience work much better.
    • by hotseat (102621)

      Problems of schools gaming the stats not withstanding, this isn't a good approach. Your friends and family will have only anecdotal evidence of some schools at some periods of time; reputations tend to catch up with actual quality in the long run, but this can take several years.

      In short, your algorithm is an excellent way of finding out what some people like you thought were good schools some years ago - it's not an efficient way to find out where your kid might be best off in the future.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:27AM (#38981759)

    As a teacher, I agree with the bulk of this article. However, I absolutely disagree with student/teacher ratio not being a factor in quality education. When I started teaching, a mere seven years ago, my average class size was 23:1 with one "giant" class of 32. My average class size now is 40:1. It is impossible to offer the same quality of teaching and one-on-one to a large group. However, good teaching is still good teaching, and we muddle along to advanced scores; but it is much for difficult to help those who are truly struggling.

    On another note, the factor of growth being the key metric is essential to understand. Lousy teachers can have great test scores depending on what community they are in (socio-economic), but it takes a truly skilled and effective teacher to be able to help students grow.

    • I think it also depends on whether the teacher knows how to address groups of different sizes. I had a number of teachers who had to rework their entire curriculum because either the class size was much smaller than previous years due to declining population in the district, or the class size was much larger because the number of teachers for that subject had been reduced. Some teachers can only teach large classes effectively, some are only effective with small classes and some can easily do both.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        Wow, how far do you think you can stretch that? Think how much we'd save staffing an entire gradeschool with a single teacher! We just need to find one of those special teachers who could do it "easily."
  • Test Score Growth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShavedOrangutan (1930630) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:32AM (#38981821)
    My wife is an excellent teacher who left a prestigious private school for gifted kids and went to a school in a very low socioeconomic area. Why? She said the kids at the gifted school "Just got it" and there was no challenge for her, professionally. Now the students can't spell their names the first day, but thanks to the hard work of a lot of very good teachers, they are average when they leave. Sure, test scores are lower than at the gifted school, but the kids have made a lot more progress.

    Oh, her #1 advice to parents of her students: READ TO YOUR KIDS EVERY DAY!
  • I've been very happy with our schools. The teachers are excellent and the administration seems to really care.

    A few friends have been looking at sending their kids to private school for the first few years because the private schools offer all-day kindergarten. Our school district doesn't provide it, and the parents are responsible for the noontime pickup / dropoff.

  • I shopped around (Score:5, Interesting)

    by davidannis (939047) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:34AM (#38981859) Homepage
    and put my child in an inner city school because they have an immersion program for a foreign language. This gives him a chance to learn while his brain is still primed to acquire language. Sure, I pay a price - they sent him home once with pages xeroxed from a book because they didn't have enough money for books for all of the kids (with a note asking me not to let him color on the pages because they couldn't really afford copies either) but he is ahead of where either of his two older brothers were at the same age (in an affluent suburban district). There is more about my choice here: http://moderatelyliberal.blogspot.com/2011/12/school-choice.html [blogspot.com] In general the education establishment pays little attention to what they know works. There is plenty of evidence that later starts for high school, teaching language earlier, abolishing DARE, and feeding kids healthy, less processed foods would help and be inexpensive. Unfortunately the schools are aught in culture wars and battles over union rights.
  • by mark-t (151149) <[markt] [at] [lynx.bc.ca]> on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:39AM (#38981953) Journal

    Should that denominator be the average actual age of the teachers at the school? Or The average years of experience teaching?

    Because not everyone starts teaching at the same age.... and heck, a person with more life experience that is only just starting out teaching may be entirely able to outpace younger people with more experience in the field. Not everybody holds the same career their entire life anymore. In fact, most don't.

  • Any metric is meaningless if the target criterion is meaningless. Everyone talks about school quality. Well, what defines quality? Schools that produce the most college graduates, better paid employees, non-criminals, Nobel laureates? What's the goal of schools in the first place?
  • by fwarren (579763) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @11:47AM (#38982105) Homepage

    Most kids need new parents. Or at least parents that care and take responsibility. Parents that read to their children, help them pick up the basics, teach good study habits and make sure their children do their homework, will have students who do well in any school.

    If Johnny can not read, it is mom and dads job to teach Johnny or to find someone who can. For any parent who is literate, the fact that they can have a child hit middle school who cant read is a sign of laziness. You pay taxes so that your city will provide primary education for your child. However you cant just put a sandwich in a lunch bag and send them out the door every morning for 12 years and expect that someone who is paid to show up for 8 hours a day at a union job will do a better job at loving your child and teaching them than you will.

    I have 3 adult children. I am a high school dropout. Most of their lives we lived at or near the poverty level. Two of my three kids manage to get scholarships that pay for 90% of all their college expenses. They were all students who received good grades. Sometimes it was a lot of work for us. If a kid has a different learning style than how a teacher teaches, it was up to us to turn the TV off and spend time with our offspring and help them to learn.

    I have worked 10 hours, driven another hour home, and then sat down and helped one child with math and read to another child. Face it, teachers are like any other group. Only 10% of them graduated in the top 10% of their class. College only required them to be right 70% of the time. That is right. Your child may be taught by someone who gets 30% of the material wrong, and that is before they perform a poor job at communicating what they DO know.

    Many private schools spend half as much as public schools do per student yet the children learn far better? Why is this? Maybe because someone who is taxed for public schools and then still ponies up money for a private insinuation cares enough about their child's education to be involved and make sure that the succeed no matter what.

    if you care about your kids. it is YOUR job to make sure they know the things they need to know. Passing it off on someone else and then acting powerless when your child is in 3rd grade has problems and wringing your hands for the next 9 years that nothing can be done is a cop out.

  • My brother and sister are both retired teachers (I am not).

    While I beleive and hope that both of my siblings were "good teachers", both reached to top of their system's payscales by obtaining multiple advanced degrees - up to but not to exceed the number that will maximize pay - as early as possible. (Which affects total compensation including retirement.) My sister has 3 masters, brother has two masters and a PhD.

    I have no idea whether or not that translates to "highly qualified". It does translate into "s

  • I live in one of the best school districts in the nation, in an affluent suburb. The five years of schooling my child has had so far could easily have been condensed into 2 years. Repetition (which I realize is needed to some extent for memorization and skill to develop) and preparation for standardized tests takes up most of the time. Add in the fact that standards for passing are ridiculously low. Add in the political correctness (don't get me started on the focus on "environmentalism" and being "eco-frie

    • This is the part that gets me. I took the California Achievement Test when I was in elementary and (some of) high school, and not once do I remember the teachers teaching us the material on the test. They went through their regular curriculum during the year, and we were given a 2-3 day overview on how to fill in our boxes, how to spend our time on the test,

      These days, teachers will spend up to 6 weeks (or more) actually teaching the material on the standardized test. Wait, what?!? If you aren't teaching th

  • Nuns (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Stargoat (658863) * <stargoat@gmail.com> on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:12PM (#38982495) Journal

    I expect that the very best education comes from nuns. I found that Catholic school prepared me for the real world far better than my public school counterparts. Catholic school students learned more and were better at applying their learning to real world situations.

    If it weren't for the anti-Catholic bias in America society (a bias that rivals that of African Americans: and I can easy prove it. 40% of American is Catholic, but we've had only 1 Catholic President, whereas 13% of America is African American, and we've had only 1 African American President), Catholic students would be ruling the country.

    • If it weren't for the anti-Catholic bias in America society (a bias that rivals that of African Americans: and I can easy prove it. 40% of American is Catholic, but we've had only 1 Catholic President, whereas 13% of America is African American, and we've had only 1 African American President), Catholic students would be ruling the country.

      Only 52% of Americans are women, and we already got Hilllary!

  • some will look at that as an easy way to raise test scores. Just pay the teachers more and automatically everything will improve.

    Sadly you need to have standards WITH the pay. And as we've seen from the rubber rooms it's almost impossible to fire child molesters that are teachers. So getting rid of teachers that simply aren't good at their jobs is going to be entirely impossible.

    What we need are standards for teachers. We need to hold teachers to some kind of standard and then be very comfortable with adjus

  • by hierofalcon (1233282) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:22PM (#38982667)

    If you want to know where to send your kids to elementary school, get to know some junior high or middle school teachers and find out which elementary students are best prepared for junior high or middle school. You can do the same thing at high school if you need but the choice of the middle grades is less important than elementary. Obviously, you need to know the teacher making the comments, but the teachers I know will give you an honest opinion if you ask. You may have to cut through some bureaucratic double speak.

    Obviously this really doesn't matter if you don't have open enrollment. If you don't, then you have to decide where to live first as that will determine everything else.

    This isn't a guarantee. The teacher that was doing a great job might leave or retire. Several might get fed up with the administration and leave. Great new teachers might transfer in somewhere else. But it will give a general overview as a starting point.

    One of our elementary schools decided to try a radical new approach to teaching. Everything would be electronic. No books. The kids hated it. The school system is still trying to give it a chance - bureaucracy and institutional inertia being what it is. Few enroll there since it isn't working and they can't understand why.

    All parents should be involved in their kid's education and should pick up the slack teaching concepts the kids aren't getting at school. Having said that, I'm a firm believer that home schooling is the wrong approach for 90% of the kids and parents who try it. It gets worse the more kids you have and the higher the grade level you try to teach.

    My wife and I have four degrees between us, but you can't be an expert in enough things to teach them all subjects well. Trying to teach multiple kids at the same time holds the older kids back (but may help the young ones). Worst, if you can't actually teach or one of your kids just doesn't connect with you as a teacher, they are doomed. At least a bad public school teacher is just for one course or one year at the most. If they're all bad, find a way to go private or move someplace where the schools are good.

    My last pieces of advice - make sure to get your children's eyesight tested if there is any doubt. Make sure their eyes track properly (take a pencil and slowly move it towards their nose and then from side to side a few times watching their eyes to make sure they track smoothly). Make sure they hear. Make sure they attend school. Check on their performance and keep them working. Help them to develop a love of books and reading - it will do them a world of good in school and in life as well. Get your noses out of your cell phones and video games yourselves and demonstrate good traits yourself to your kids.

  • I'll tell you why. Those who are "highly qualified", young, and in higher paying positions, don't have the experience to make them effective.

    Teaching is not just a job, it's a talent. You're either effective or not. It can't be taught, and seemingly isn't for those with an education degree.

    My wife came to teaching as a second career. She is "highly qualified" as per school district requirements through training and continuing education. One reason why she's so effective is she had no pre-conceived noti

  • by Mr. Theorem (33952) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:31PM (#38982787)

    I realize TFA is more like the author's off-the-cuff musings and less like a rigorous study, but it does recommend looking at test score growth, and in the process fails to mention something that's both nearly obvious but almost always overlooked when discussing test score growth. When test scores grow, one is by definition comparing the scores that one group of students took on one test to the scores that another group of students got on a different test. With that in mind, there are 5 principal ways that test scores can "go up":

    1. students cheat on the second test
    2. the second test is easier
    3. students who score low on the first test don't take the second test
    4. students, who score high on the second test, were added to the testing group but did not take the first test
    5. more individual students score better on the second test than perform worse on the second test

    Cheating does happen, but it's probably rare. Tests can be psychologically validated to ensure constant difficulty, but this isn't done as often as it should. Nevertheless, #3 is by far the most common and least talked about way for test scores (particularly relative test scores) to improve. TFA recommends looking at the relative standing of a schools 2nd graders and 5th or 6th graders. We'd like to think that the students are being educated so successfully that their performance improves, but anyone making such a claim ought to be required to (rigorously and mathematically) prove that changes in the student population are not the primary cause. There is pretty good evidence [wordpress.com], for example, that the high-profile improvement in the charter school that Michelle Rhee worked at was rather effective at "counseling out" the consistently low scoring students to have apparent test score gains that had little to do with their instructional program. I can well imagine the administrative staff of a school "working with" the parents to help find a school that's "a better match" to their kid's "unique learning style."

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:36PM (#38982863)
    The one number that gives you a quick read on an elementary school is the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced cost school meals. This number is readily available. While this is a socio-economic index, it is reliably inversely proportional to the amount of parental involvement you can expect to find in the school population; and parental involvement is one of the most important factors in elementary education. (Yes, my family is full of educators.) While there are obviously going to be exceptions to this, it is a good, quick measure of the school. If you have a choice of one school with 25% free and reduced and one with 85% free and reduced, pick the former. Far more of its kids will be going to college. Far fewer will have parents strung out on methamphetamine or what have you. Far fewer will have serious behavioral issues that disrupt education for everyone.
  • I don't think people realize what those metrics are.

    the first is parent education. so you're saying that schools with smart parents have smart students. so you're saying I should select a school based on how others have already selelcted a school.

    the second is growing scores. so you're saying improvement is good to see.

    the third is teacher attraction. so you're saying that schools that were selected by good teachers are good.

    basing my selection simply by following others who have already selected it doe

  • "The best teachers will become highly qualified early, and will gravitate toward the best paying jobs."

    No kidding? The best education will come from teachers who have a passion to dedicate the cost of a modern 4-year education, master's degree, credentialing, and entry-level experience while they're still young? Wow, that's great to know! Now here's the problem: How do teachers pay for all of that while still safely assuming that there will be a sufficient paycheck on the other side of all the hurdles.

    This

  • The problem is Schools/Governments really ignore the normal distribution of students. The average Grade for the students should be a C or a 75% mastery in taught information. However school systems make the C grade considered the Underachiever Passing grade. While what should really be happening Most of the students have D-B Grades, and only a much smaller few would have Fs and As

    When judging your school systems Large amount of As or Fs means trouble.

    To many As means your course work is too easy for the s
  • At first, I thought I'd say something smart about how "good" predictors change over time as people learn to game the system then I read the original piece; is there any serious there there ? Is slashdot really posting random musings based on sample sizes of ~ 1 as something worth thinking about ? maybe thats why I find myself spending less time on /. then I used to
  • Most parents seem to go by number of affluent white children at a school. And those schools tend to be in big suburbs with large schools where averages tend to smooth out kids out aren't learning.

    My kid's in a title 1 inner-city school with a dual language immersion program. The parents I know in the suburbs are complaining about a lack of academic rigor. The parents at my school are complaining about it being too rigorous. I honestly think "choosing a school" might be a symptom of the problem. We should ma

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @12:57PM (#38983257) Journal

    You want to know the best predictor of elem school success? You have to promise not to tell anyone, but it's parental involvement. Find a school where most of the parents are engaged with their kids, and regularly volunteer at the school, and you'll find a great learning environment. Everything else - money, test score changes over time, administration, etc. are really secondary. They get your kids for 5 hours a day 180 days a year, and you have them for 19 hours on those days and 24 on the other 185.

    The biggest problem with elementary schools isn't money or bad teachers or inefficient administration - it's parents that don't give a shit.

  • 1. private/public
    2. corporal punishment allowed yes/no

    That's it.

  • But when you peel back the data, things like high test scores mean next to nothing about school quality – isn’t it likely that socioeconomics and not the school itself created these high test scores?

    That's about as in-depth as this article gets. The author has no statistics to back-up his guess. He doesn't actually provide any data at all in the article. This is part of a chain of bloggers reiterating the often accepted yet statistically unproven assertion that test scores are useless. The reality is that they are the best measure we have of the quality of education. So before evaluating a school based on one person's opinion of how to do it, make sure you look at the currently accepted best scien

  • This last year our son started at a charter school. It has turned out to be an excellent fit for our son. One of the things that became obvious as we were having to make the choice between a charter school and a magnet science program was that all children in all charter schools have parents who are concerned about their children's education and are at least willing to put forth the energy to apply for the charter school. I would say in general that parental involvement in the school is a major thing to
  • by quax (19371) on Thursday February 09, 2012 @01:32PM (#38983903)

    Up here in Ontario Canada, teachers earn a good salary with excellent benefits and are required to be highly qualified.

    The results speak for themselves [cdnsba.org].

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