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Education Facebook The Almighty Buck

Zuckerberg's $100 Million Education Gift Solved Little 335

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In 2010 the state of public education in Newark, New Jersey was dire. The city's school system was a disaster, replete with violence, run-down buildings, and a high-school graduation rate of only 54%. Newark's mayor at the time, Cory Booker, teamed up with governor Chris Christie to turn the schools around. At the same time, Mark Zuckerberg was looking to get his feet wet in big-time philanthropy. The three hatched a plan, and Zuckerberg committed $100 million to reforming the schools. Four years later, most of the money is gone, and Newark's children are still struggling. Tens of millions were spent on consulting groups, and yet more went to union negotiations. Plans to change how teacher seniority affected staffing decisions — in order to reward results rather than persistence — were dashed by political maneuvering. The New Yorker provides a detailed account in a lengthy piece of investigative journalism, and MSN provides a summary."
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Zuckerberg's $100 Million Education Gift Solved Little

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  • by nimbius (983462) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:07PM (#46994893) Homepage
    Rich man donating large sums of cash to education system shocked to find systems flaws are of great complexity and cannot be solved by simply shitting large sums of money into education. When reached for comment, Rich man was found paralyzed by indecisiveness during elusive hunt for tasty caviar on weekend aboard mega yacht.
    • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rmdingler (1955220) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:20PM (#46994991)
      If you think taxpayer-funded governmental programs are rife with waste and inefficiency, you're probably correct.

      Imagine that! Giving the same folks more money above and beyond taxes didn't improve things even marginally.

      Not to take anything away from what I believe is a magnanimous gesture by Zuck, but perhaps a college scholarship program would better serve the needs of inner city youths.

      • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:40PM (#46995133)

        - - - - - If you think taxpayer-funded governmental programs are rife with waste and inefficiency, you're probably correct. - - - - -

        I don't, no. Compared to other large-scale human endeavors decently funded universal public school districts receiving strong societal support are among the most efficient institutions known to man.

        But compared to for-profit charter "schools"? Public schools - even the really bad ones - are havens of efficiency and good results.

        sPh

        • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hsthompson69 (1674722) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:38PM (#46996159)

          The problem is that even *decadently* funded universal government schools that don't have the ability to discipline or expel problem behavior students suffer from the tragedy of the commons in the worst way - a small set of bad apples ruins the whole damn bunch.

          When children succeed in schools, it has much less to do with the school than with the child's family and it's attitude towards education. Asserting that success stories are due to money, and failures are due to the lack of money, is to ignore the first order terms in the equation.

      • No, not so much (Score:4, Interesting)

        by rsilvergun (571051) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:33PM (#46995493)
        Post office is model of efficiency, and studies show private and charter schools spend more on administrative costs (read:profit for the owners) that public schools. But hey, keep repeating a lie [wordpress.com] often enough and it's bound to become true sooner or later, right?

        Or could it be that good education is really, really expensive, and that $100 million dollars isn't really a lot of money on the scale of a State of American. Could it also be that a lot of that $100 million was spent on trying to make the school district turn out cheap employees for facebook?
        • by russotto (537200)

          Post office is model of efficiency, and studies show private and charter schools spend more on administrative costs (read:profit for the owners) that public schools.

          I gather economics isn't one of your strong points, as "administrative costs" and "profits" are disjoint categories. It's certainly true that plenty of charters are scams meant for efficiently transferring taxpayer money into connected people's pockets... but unfortunately public schools are much the same.

          Or could it be that good education is r

    • Trouble is he didn't bother to identify the source of the problem first. The east coast is dirty politics and Mafia rule to the very core. He might as well have given the money to a drug dealer instead, the outcomes wouldn't be much different.
    • shocked to find systems flaws are of great complexity and cannot be solved by simply shitting large sums of money into education.

      Hmm, wow, perhaps we could draw some sort of broader conclusion from th ... ow, ow, the down mods, it burns!

    • Re:Breaking news (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:15PM (#46995379)

      Not that it's surprising. It's about the most American concept in existence: ignore a problem chronically until ignoring it further would cause chaos... then smother it with money and hope it goes away.

      The education system
      The financial crisis
      The war on drugs
      The war on terrorism
      (goddamn, America loves its wars)

      No real plan, no forethought, just vulturous agencies and contractors circling the poor starving bastard, waiting to feast on that juicy pile of cash that they know will come soon enough.

      Show me a national problem where this response isn't the default.

  • Imagine that! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:09PM (#46994905)

    Throwing money at every problem doesn't make it go away. Who woulda thunk it?
     
    While I appreciate the research potential of this experiment I just don't think people are looking at the human element when it comes to social problems like education and welfare. Our politicians don't seek a better answer because they don't care that people are wasting their lives on reality TV and booze as long as they get their pockets lined from it.

  • by k6mfw (1182893) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:09PM (#46994907)
    there was a time when they paid more taxes, and they were still rich (and also employed many others in this same country).
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Same problem will often happen though if the government spends the $100 million instead of the rich guy. Anyone spending the money should first make sure that it's going to be spent well. Otherwise it is way too easy to misspend. Give money to your local elementary school, then find out it was all spend on new paint jobs, resurfacing parking lots, and all the other stuff they've been putting off, but no extra money spent on teachers or smaller class sizes or new DRM-free textbooks.

      Best bet for the nouvea

  • Technically (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sphealey (2855) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:12PM (#46994931)

    - - - - - — in order to reward results rather than persistence — - - - - -

    If my inferior public school education is any guide, I believe that is technically known as "begging the question". There was no evidence beforehand that there are significant problems with US K-12 education on average, but there was and is absolutely zero evidence that the vast majority of teachers weren't already working hard 'to achieve results' before Grover Norquist and Michelle Rhee got involved to "improve" the situation. On the other hand, there is over 100 years of evidence as to why schools tend to evolve toward seniority systems (hint: not to protect "incompetent" teachers), all of which was ignored.

    sPh

    • Re:Technically (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:40PM (#46995145)

      Anyone who is a parent with a kid in public education can see that there are flaws. The whole system is setup to reward CYA behavior. Don't get me wrong, the vast majority of educators are well meaning and pretty hard-working. But the system itself thwarts them. There is no reward for going above and beyond. There is no reward for reaching out to parents - quite the opposite, since this will make more work for you and increase your risks with absolutely no benefit to your own situation. Problem kids are kept in the system. The system is set up to assume that budgets will always increase - even a mild decrease results in mass hysteria. Construction is shoddy government lowest bidder crap, and maintenance is nonexistent.

      I have my kids in public school to expose them to a diversity of classes and cultures... I feel that being able to relate to people not entirely like oneself is an important life skill. But there is definitely an allure to private schools, where the vast majority of the students are there to learn, most of the parents care enough to spend inordinate amounts of money on education, and the entire system is geared towards keeping your business and keeping those Ivy League acceptance rates up instead of ass-covering.

      • Re:Technically (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jmv (93421) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:31PM (#46995487) Homepage

        But there is definitely an allure to private schools, where the vast majority of the students are there to learn, most of the parents care enough to spend inordinate amounts of money on education, and the entire system is geared towards keeping your business and keeping those Ivy League acceptance rates up instead of ass-covering.

        Having been to a private school, I can tell you that most of the focus is not education, but on looking good to the parents. I don't think teachers are any better (though probably not worse), and the main reason students are better come down to pre-selection (entrance exam, no poor children). The only fundamental plus is that they're allowed to expel troublemakers.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          I agree with you, but you have to admit that if you are the affluent parent of a smart, well-behaved kid the private school is a temptation. I went to both a mediocre public school and a very good Catholic school. The Catholic school spent a lot less per student and had somewhat pedestrian facilities, but the learning environment was much better and there were hardly ever fights.

        • by swillden (191260)

          But there is definitely an allure to private schools, where the vast majority of the students are there to learn, most of the parents care enough to spend inordinate amounts of money on education, and the entire system is geared towards keeping your business and keeping those Ivy League acceptance rates up instead of ass-covering.

          Having been to a private school, I can tell you that most of the focus is not education, but on looking good to the parents. I don't think teachers are any better (though probably not worse), and the main reason students are better come down to pre-selection (entrance exam, no poor children). The only fundamental plus is that they're allowed to expel troublemakers.

          That's one form of private school. The school I sent my son to took any an all applicants and was largely populated with students (like my son) who were failing in the public school system, including kids with behavioral issues. The school's students also scored in the 95th percentile on the same standardized tests given to public school students -- and without "teaching the test". The curriculum was innovative and engaging, classes were small, and the teachers were uniformly excellent (even though they all

    • by ranton (36917)

      There was no evidence beforehand that there are significant problems with US K-12 education on average

      Until I read the rest of your post I assumed you were being sarcastic with this statement. The US spends more than any other country on education [cbsnews.com], but still ranks below average when compared to other developed countries. We have known this for a long time, but things keep getting worse. [npr.org] While none of this means teachers are the primary cause of these problems, it is ignorant to say that there are not significant problems in our K-12 education system.

      but there was and is absolutely zero evidence that the vast majority of teachers weren't already working hard 'to achieve results' before Grover Norquist and Michelle Rhee got involved to "improve" the situation.

      My employers don't care much if I am trying hard. They car

  • by Connie_Lingus (317691) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:14PM (#46994945) Homepage

    a multi-billionaire like Zuckerberg just didn't give enough.

    a measly $100mil?? it should of course had been $500mil

    THEN...the problems could really be solved!

  • Proverb (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGruber (1417641) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:22PM (#46995007)

    "A fool and his money are soon parted."

    (Zuck should have Googled it).

  • bottom line: it ain't a MONEY thang.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We spend more on public education in America than any other country. Money is clearly not the problem unless you are talking about controlling waste spending and corruption. Liberal idealists cannot come to terms with the ideas of hard discipline and failing students who disrupt other students' education. Social liberals are too afraid of the politically correct reality that some students need to be held back. Instead they will bankrupt society to try to find any solution that doesn't cause people to "track

    • by sphealey (2855)

      Guess it isn't as easy as it looks:

      - - - - - - http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]
      Missouri’s Board of Education has decided to close six charter school campuses run by the Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., the country’s largest for-profit charter network, saying that it “would be a disservice” to children to keep them open because of academic and fiscal issues.

      Imagine, based in Arlington, operates more than 75 schools in more than a dozen states — including Maryland

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        I mostly agree with you on charters, but it's important to admit that the public schools were in pretty terrible shape even before the charters. And statistically, the charters aren't really any worse - or better. At some point you have to go after the underlying poverty. I'm not sure how to do that, but I think we all need to step away from 60 years of Democrat and Republican cliche positions on the matter.

        • by sphealey (2855)

          - - - - - - but it's important to admit that the public schools were in pretty terrible shape even before the charters.- - - - -

          Some historic central city schools districts are certainly in bad shape and a few are probably irrecoverable. Some aren't: NYC amazes me with the incredible job it continues to do even as resources are slashed and social support is damaged.

          But that's irrelevant, because the US ceased to be majority urban around 1970. The US is now a suburban and exurban nation. And the vast m

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:26PM (#46995037) Homepage

    Personally, I'm of the opinion that the Department of Education should do studies on how to teach kids & how to motivate them to do better ... how public vs. private vs. charter schools affect them, etc.

    And study what the long-term effects are of just paying the kids when they get good grades:

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com... [usatoday.com]

    Because the short term seems to be that they do better ... and it's a hell of a lot cheaper than most other things that people come up with. (but then again, the money doesn't go to some corportation with a great 'solution' to the problem)

    • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:53PM (#46995235) Journal

      Dept. of Ed. and others do fund research. The results are usually ignored as they do not fit in with people's world views or funding restrictions.

  • Unions and comitties (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:27PM (#46995043)

    The problem with the education system in this country are pretty strait forward. They stem directly from the completely inflexible teachers union (who should be ashamed of themselves) and management that does nothing more than attend endless meetings over and over that churn out bullet point after bullet point. My kids school actually has some pretty good teachers by some miracle, but the management issue is ridiculous. I try to be an involved parent but all the events they have are so ridiculous it borders on insanity. They always serve Pizza Pit, the champaign of pizza. Follow that up with great games or skits to entertain the crowd... then the principle gives a 30 to 45min speech about all the great plans she has (but will never implement) then they let the parents talk for about 10min and avoid answering all our questions like "When will you fill in the 6 foot sink hole in the middle of the playground?" and no, I'm not kidding, there really is a 6' sinkhole.

    The last one I went to they sent out a questionnaire that asked:
    What is most important to you in the education of your child?
    a. Hands on learning
    b. A diverse and equitable learning environment
    c. An involved teaching staff

    What the hell does that mean? I just circled them all and wrote "YES" underneath. And these people have 4 to 8 year degrees.

  • San Diego schools got lots of money years ago for teachers and supplies, most of it was spent in consulting what to do with it, the result was one new fence, and there was nothing wrong with the old one. It was all over the news
  • by Vermonter (2683811) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:30PM (#46995069)
    If the money was wasted by upper management, then that should be a big red flag that the problem is most likely with upper management.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      yep.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      That's been the problem all along. The U.S. spends more per student [oecd.org] than any other OECD nation. The problem has never been lack of funding. The problem has always been administration sucking up so much money that an insufficient amount reaches the classroom and students.

      The "we need to spend more money on education" wardrum is just manipulation by administrators. They starve the teachers of money, then encourage them to go out and proselytize to the public with sob stories about how they had to buy t
  • Zuckerberg spends $100 million to prove that throwing money at broken public schools does not fix them.

    Are we surprised? No.

    • Zuckerberg spends $100 million to prove that throwing money at broken public schools does not fix them.

      Zuckerberg spent $100 million in a botched attempt to funnel selected students into for-profit charter schools. Helping to break the public school system for those left behind.

  • by See Attached (1269764) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @08:52PM (#46995223)
    Sounds like the problem with Newark schools are the folks that -HAD- a great opportunity to make things better, but diverted it into each others pockets rather than into programs that actually increased the chances that the students would prosper? Is this a small scale version of municipal budgets and quest for opinion and appearance rather than results? I mean .. publicity and appearance over real change?
  • Throwing money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Livius (318358) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:04PM (#46995293)

    Throwing money at a problem does not result in a solution, it results in a well-funded problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    John Taylor Gatto covers it pretty well in "The Underground History of American Education". It' available for online reading here:
    http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/index.htm

  • by sootman (158191)

    ... the consultants got rich and the kids got nothing. Good work, guys. There's a special spot in hell for you.

  • Wrong Approach (Score:4, Informative)

    by quantaman (517394) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @09:27PM (#46995463)

    You can't just throw a bunch of money at a problem and expect a solution to come out. You have to decide on a solution and then throw a bunch of money at it.

    It sounds like there were a ton of problems in New Jersey. Crumbling schools? Spend the $100 million fixing infrastructure. Kids have trouble at home? Spend the money on councillors and after-school programs. Poor teachers? Spend it on recruiting.

    It seems like they went in with a lot of money and a grand poorly defined plan, a huge institution isn't just going to jump in and implement someone's poorly defined scheme, so instead of spend everybody was busy fighting over details and figuring out where the money should go. The result is the money is wasted in paperwork and of the stuff that got spent no one knows what actually worked.

  • by SpectreBlofeld (886224) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:06PM (#46996007)

    Some years ago, when fantasizing about being a billionaire, I gave thought to how I would improve upon education.

    The solution I came up with was to found my own network of private schools and colleges, which I could hold to a high standard due to them being under my control.

    The private schools and colleges wouldn't be free to attend, per se, but I'd make it sort-of-trivially-easy for an ambitious student to gain admittance to the private high school without paying tuition (say, the student must participate in on-campus work, organized charity volunteer work, or extracurricular research work, or simply be gifted, etc).

    Exceptional students at the private schools would be given scholarships to the colleges, and billionaire-money would attract top-tier professors and researchers. I fantasized about eventually running the top private research institution in the world.

    In essence, you create a brand. Use the money to create top-tier colleges under a brand name, then 'franchise' private high schools under the brand, and funnel kids from those schools to the colleges.

    Punctuate the concept with aggressive job placement assistance, complimentary career counseling and even therapy for all graduates that extends for for a lifetime beyond graduation. (I think this point is a huge idea in itself, to be honest, and is something that universities should do anyway).

    Being a graduate doesn't just mean you got a degree there - it means you're part of a lifetime club, a member of a 'living network' (as opposed to 'social network') with high ideals in mind. Graduates would be encouraged to serve as mentors to students in their spare time in exchange for their lifelong benefits.

    Above all, this all could exist without being exclusionary toward non-'members'. For instance, tuition credits could be earned for students who agree to tutor public school students in the community and 'take them under their wing'.

    Basically, in the end, you have what a real society should be - a nurturing network of educators, counselors, mentors, and just plain *people* helping each other out for their entire lives. A community, you know? Rising tide, lifting boats.

    I actually think this sort of thing could be profitable, and not an expense, in the long run. Once you are established as a top-tier educator, your 'product' will become desirable and those with money will gladly pay for their child's enrollment. Build a solid reputation for producing high-quality, well-rounded, well-adjusted, successful graduates, and marry that to the benefits of being part of this fantastic 'life support group', and you've got one hell of a desirable thing, here.

    In short, if you want to do something right, do it yourself. Throwing money at a flawed system isn't going to fix anything. It's like trying to fix a leaky bucket by pouring more water in it.

    Slashdot-reading billionaires, feel free to run away with my ideas and do something great with them. Also feel free to contact me if you need help in the implementation. :)

  • Surprised (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Tuesday May 13, 2014 @11:49PM (#46996199)

    While $100 million sounds like a lot of money it isn't and while a lot of these posts are doing a Nelson on Zuck "Ha! Ha!" I'd say that at least he put up some money to try and make a difference. Are we that jaded nowadays that when somebody makes an honest effort that we mock the effort? I mean sure it was naive given the circumstances but at least he tried. How many other billionaires out there are willing to pony up their checkbooks and contribute? We should at least applaud the effort and work towards fixing the system so that the next time somebody ponies up some much needed funds, it goes to the kids and not to a bunch of consultants and union reps looking to milk the situation.

Too much of everything is just enough. -- Bob Wier

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