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Vent: The state of education today


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This is a huge vent.

I miss textbooks.  I miss tests and homework in any other form but multiple-choice!

My son is taking a dual enrollment statistics class.  It’s a mess.  The professor ignores the text and uses a grab-bag of worksheets in class in lieu of a lecture.  All homework and quizzes are online multiple-choice questions.  They are not hard, but very tricky from what I can tell.   

I tutor kids in our local (very top ranked) high school , and they seem to be in the same boat with their classes.  It’s just a big, disorganized mess—like my post here!

My son is plowing on with this class, and will do fine.  I just am so frustrated with the lack of organized, methodical teaching in our schools.  I’m so glad I finished grad school before this crazy trend began.  I would not have made it through!

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Many of us are still trying. This past week, I  gave the 600 students in my courses exams with free response questions and partial credit. Grading is a massive undertaking for the entire instructor team. It's time consuming and requires people.

Colleges have been dealing with budget cuts for a long time. Every single year we are asked to cut back. Heck, we don't even have office phones anymore because we don't have anything else to cut. The trend is fewer instructors teach more students. Something has to give. If legislators were to restore tax funding to public colleges, we'd have more faculty. But where a single instructor is the sole teacher for several hundred students, multiple choice and computer graded homework becomes their only option.

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1 hour ago, regentrude said:

Many of us are still trying. This past week, I  gave the 600 students in my courses exams with free response questions and partial credit. Grading is a massive undertaking for the entire instructor team. It's time consuming and requires people.

Colleges have been dealing with budget cuts for a long time. Every single year we are asked to cut back. Heck, we don't even have office phones anymore because we don't have anything else to cut. The trend is fewer instructors teach more students. Something has to give. If legislators were to restore tax funding to public colleges, we'd have more faculty. But where a single instructor is the sole teacher for several hundred students, multiple choice and computer graded homework becomes their only option.

Very interesting.  I guess this makes sense, but it does beg the question why did I have to pay $800 for this course?  The instructor is a grad student.  I’m not sure that budget cuts are the problem here.  

I’m still left not understanding the need for ignoring the textbook that we paid for and using random worksheets, but it is what it is, I guess.

I do appreciate the fact that you are still fighting the good fight.

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10 minutes ago, Hadley said:

Very interesting.  I guess this makes sense, but it does beg the question why did I have to pay $800 for this course?  The instructor is a grad student.  I’m not sure that budget cuts are the problem here.  

I’m still left not understanding the need for ignoring the textbook that we paid for and using random worksheets, but it is what it is, I guess.

I do appreciate the fact that you are still fighting the good fight.

I know some instructors make an attempt to save their students money by not requiring a textbook, but it doesn't sound like that's what is going on here. Was the textbook listed as required or optional? I get that it's super annoying when they use the $100 textbook for one chapter. What does the RateMyProfessor profile say? 

I totally agree with you on the textbook thing in high schools. If it were implemented well, it wouldn't be a big deal. I can easily educate my kids without a textbook. It's when the loss of the textbook = random worksheets and videos that I begin to question the reasoning behind it. I'll be first in line to stick it to the major education publishers. I don't think that's whats happening though. I still haven't quite figured it out. We had a thread about Teachers Pay Teachers not that long ago that got onto this subject. 

 

 

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The textbook was required, but then the teacher told the kids that he wouldn’t use it after we had already opened it, and now it can’t be returned.

I do agree with you about teaching without textbooks in my homeschool, but this is vastly different.  Even when I use living books, I follow some sort of a plan.

I did not check Rate My Professor.  It’s a shame-on-me situation.  This has been our first foray into dual enrollment.  My son wanted to squeeze in this class, and he found a night class that would fit his schedule.  The truth is that he likes the teacher and enjoys his class.  It’s just terribly disorganized...

I’m sure I’ll live 😊

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I am in grad school working on a M.A.T. in Science Education and have spent time observing several middle and high school classes recently.  One high school chemistry teacher I spoke with told me that her students won't read assignments when they are assigned from the textbook, but they WILL watch a 5 or 10-minute YouTube video.   She creates a worksheet for each unit with QR codes for videos that she has vetted covering each major topic, then assigns the videos as homework rather than anything out of the textbook.    

I can totally see the necessity for computer graded and multiple-choice tests.   I am currently teaching classes in Biology and Chemistry at a local homeschool co-op, and I spent at least 2-3 hours each week grading tests, lab reports, and homework.   I have 33 students.  I couldn't possibly spend that much time per student on grading if I had 600 students.   There are ways to write multiple-choice tests that require higher level thinking, but it takes a lot of work and thought.   I would wager that the "tricky" MC questions are this instructor's attempt at writing test questions that include some computation, application, or analysis.

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14 minutes ago, SebastianCat said:

I am in grad school working on a M.A.T. in Science Education and have spent time observing several middle and high school classes recently.  One high school chemistry teacher I spoke with told me that her students won't read assignments when they are assigned from the textbook, but they WILL watch a 5 or 10-minute YouTube video.   She creates a worksheet for each unit with QR codes for videos that she has vetted covering each major topic, then assigns the videos as homework rather than anything out of the textbook.    

 

My son’s sitting on a 98, so I’m not too concerned about the ‘tricky’ mc questions. I think the vocabulary has been a bit unclear in a few, from what he has shared with me.

I’m ducking for cover now...

I think it’s pitiful that teachers dumb-down delivery methods because students choose not to read.  I taught school for years, and those who chose not to study for my class also chose not to receive credit for the class.  I’m old school.  I think students need to learn to rise to class requirements, rather than teachers lowering their standards to meet the students’ apathy.  Of course, this only applies to students who have no learning challenges that would preclude them from handling the material.

I accept the fact that this approach may not be popular.  It’s a large part of why I left teaching in the public schools!

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25 minutes ago, Hadley said:

I think it’s pitiful that teachers dumb-down delivery methods because students choose not to read.  I taught school for years, and those who chose not to study for my class also chose not to receive credit for the class.  I’m old school.  I think students need to learn to rise to class requirements, rather than teachers lowering their standards to meet the students’ apathy.  Of course, this only applies to students who have no learning challenges that would preclude them from handling the material.

I accept the fact that this approach may not be popular.  It’s a large part of why I left teaching in the public schools!

You aren't alone, @Hadley 

While this wasn't the reason I originally started homeschooling (because I wasn't aware how bad things were in ps), it is the reason I persisted.  

Edited by daijobu
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From what I hear from students and teachers in our district,  our public schools don't use textbooks but rarely. The teachers mostly determine the curriculum. It seems to be mostly random worksheets and online programs like Aleks Math and Duolingo. (A neighbor girl told me they spend 20 minutes of every class period and every Friday on Duolingo Spanish. Sad.)

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Why would it be strange or controversial to reach kids where they are and teach them in the ways that they learn best? Isn't that the reason so many of us chose to homeschool to begin with? At one point last year, my daughter asked me to download a dictionary app. She said it was because she "needed a dictionary that didn't require internet access". I informed her that we had several versions that would meet her needs, that they were called BOOKS, and she was welcome to retrieve them from our bookshelves at any time of day or night. She laughed her butt off and proceeded to walk away...without the app. There's no point in making kids use a tool that they are unlikely to use when there are other ways to access the same information. At DD's school, they provide textbooks. DD uses hers as needed. She also uses other resources that, as a mildly dyslexic student, are more accessible to her. I think about all of the students who are left behind by insisting on text or lecture as the only medium of instruction. When we know better (about how kids learn) we should do better. If the ultimate results are poor, OK, reevaluate and change course. When the results are not only not poor but good or superior? Get over it.

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15 hours ago, Hadley said:

I’m still left not understanding the need for ignoring the textbook that we paid for and using random worksheets, but it is what it is, I guess.

Worksheets are tools of active learning. There has been a lot of pedagogy research that active learning is better than consuming a passive lecture where the instructor repeats the textbook content. If they are using worksheets in class, that means they are doing activities and not just listening. If this is a math course, students need to DO math and practice and not just watch an instructor do math. Worksheets are a good tool for that.

We don't use the textbook during any of our math and science classes; the textbook is required because the student needs to read it at home to prepare for class. the fact that they don't have to take the book to class doesn't mean it's not needed.

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25 minutes ago, regentrude said:

Worksheets are tools of active learning. There has been a lot of pedagogy research that active learning is better than consuming a passive lecture where the instructor repeats the textbook content. If they are using worksheets in class, that means they are doing activities and not just listening. If this is a math course, students need to DO math and practice and not just watch an instructor do math. Worksheets are a good tool for that.

We don't use the textbook during any of our math and science classes; the textbook is required because the student needs to read it at home to prepare for class. the fact that they don't have to take the book to class doesn't mean it's not needed.

I do think that you make some very valid points.  I think, in this particular case, that a road map to scope and sequence or a guide to how the worksheets might meet the text would be helpful.

My son is very mathy, so he will be fine.  I would have been the student who very much wanted and NEEDED to read the text.  Class time spent with worksheets would simply not have been enough for me.  I would have needed follow-up outside of class practice, and there does not seem to be much of a vehicle for that in this particular class.

I also know, from much life experience, that we are all different types and one can’t please everyone!

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I was just pondering this as I showered and had a deep thought😊

I think I need math with words.  Math finally came alive for me years ago when I walked through the first couple of AoPS books with my son.  Without a text, math has too few words for me.

I also used to teach AP Psych.  I had a recent tutoring student who came to me for help studying for a unit test.  She had nothing but a huge pile of xeroxed papers and a notebook of notes.  She and her mother kept insisting that her teacher told her that the book was useless.  I found that all I was doing in our session was showing her how all of the sub-sections of her worksheets fit together into a greater whole.  I was being paid to do what her textbook had already done for her.  

We all have such different learning styles.  Perhaps I just need good transition sentences to move from one topic to the next!

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4 hours ago, Hadley said:

I do think that you make some very valid points.  I think, in this particular case, that a road map to scope and sequence or a guide to how the worksheets might meet the text would be helpful.

My son is very mathy, so he will be fine.  I would have been the student who very much wanted and NEEDED to read the text.  Class time spent with worksheets would simply not have been enough for me.  I would have needed follow-up outside of class practice, and there does not seem to be much of a vehicle for that in this particular class.

I also know, from much life experience, that we are all different types and one can’t please everyone!

I taught myself statistics using the text book. I realized after a couple of lectures that they weren't just useless, they were actively confusing me. So, I skipped them. I did every problem in the book instead. I got 100s on every exam because they were open book and based on the problems from the text. At the end of the second semester, I needed to see the TA to pick up my final exam. She commented on how well I had done and how I had never attended her recitation. Since I was graduating and had a job lined up, I explained my study method to her. Instead of being annoyed, she just laughed and said that she was glad that I found the best way to learn the material. 

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I'm with you @Hadley.  I can't learn by watching a video or listening to a lecture.  I really need to read something.  Even in high school and college, I would take notes, then go home and read them.  Only then did I understand what was going on.  On a related note, I'm terrible at foreign languages, and I think it's related to my inability to comprehend things by listening to them.  I need to see them in print.  

 

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On a related note, when I am on a high school campus, I notice a lot of student-made posters on the walls, describing math or science concepts.  I don't remember ever making a poster in high school.  I'm wondering if this is replacing papers or exams as a way to show mastery of concepts?  Or maybe extra credit?  

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I see the real issue here being that the student was told that the textbook was required when it wasn’t. College textbooks can be expensive. I would be unhappy in the same situation.

That being said, my DS has taken courses that used etext only and other with no textbook at all, and it doesn’t seem to be any different to him than a course with a physical textbook. The online high schools that he as attended do not have any physical textbooks. I remember being told by the online school that aren’t preferred physical textbooks, but the students preferred electronic.

I used to worK in a school district that did not use math textbooks past the workbook style textbooks of early elementary. The district had created its own detailed curriculum of packets of worksheets.

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The community college here requires the instructors to list a textbook for each class, regardless of their plans to use it.  That came as a surprise.  We bought used copies in advance on Amazon and scored better deals than dc would have gotten in the bookstore, only to discover that all of the books weren't needed and couldn't be returned.  The instructor told them the first day of class if the book wasn't needed, so students could return them to the bookstore, but that didn't help dc.  Dc read some of the books anyway and found them interesting.

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11 hours ago, daijobu said:

On a related note, when I am on a high school campus, I notice a lot of student-made posters on the walls, describing math or science concepts.  I don't remember ever making a poster in high school.  I'm wondering if this is replacing papers or exams as a way to show mastery of concepts?  Or maybe extra credit?  

This may have to do with teacher evaluations.  It’s been many moons ago, but part of my yearly evaluation called for display of ‘evidence of learning’ in my classroom.  I used to have the hardest time coming up with these types of assignments.  I detest busy work, and many of my English students objected to having their essays displayed.  I didn’t blame them!  I spent one long semester surrounded by drawings of labeled brains courtesy of my AP Psych class just so that I could check this box!

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It is this way in the public high school here. There are no textbooks. The kids are given tons of hand outs. Even at kindergarten level, the teachers are teaching it all by the seat of their pants. They often will print things off of teachers pay teachers. Same thing going on at the high school level. Then they rely heavily on online mish mush. My now 10th grader gave up and I did not care. I have screen shots to show he had completed half a semester of work by early Feb, and it all was scratched. Apparently, his student account gave him work from one system when it was supposed to be on another. Now he is supposed to redo an entire semester of work. it is nuts. He is done and I feel the same way. What is the point? The other option is the charter school. That school does have textbooks and teachers who teach. However, they give hours of homework each night. In 2nd grade, there was an hour of worksheet type home work and then on top of that, reading time and studying for tests and flash cards. By high school, several hours of home work every night. 

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On 2/21/2020 at 5:20 PM, Hadley said:

The textbook was required, but then the teacher told the kids that he wouldn’t use it after we had already opened it, and now it can’t be returned.

I do agree with you about teaching without textbooks in my homeschool, but this is vastly different.  Even when I use living books, I follow some sort of a plan.

I did not check Rate My Professor.  It’s a shame-on-me situation.  This has been our first foray into dual enrollment.  My son wanted to squeeze in this class, and he found a night class that would fit his schedule.  The truth is that he likes the teacher and enjoys his class.  It’s just terribly disorganized...

I’m sure I’ll live 😊

I totally get what you are saying and cannot understand why we are moving away from using textbooks to random worksheets. Oh, I know. It’s *cheaper* (haha) to use online texts but then no one reads them. But why should they read them when it seems 90% of teachers give a study guide that tells the student exactly what will be on the test. My ds has had that experience in his accounting class this semester and I worry that he isn’t getting the foundational information he needs to be successful in this field. And this is his major. I feel like the “Information Age” has really just led to an “information drain” and no one in any industry is going to know anything that there computer doesn’t tell them.

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On 2/21/2020 at 5:45 PM, Hadley said:

My son’s sitting on a 98, so I’m not too concerned about the ‘tricky’ mc questions. I think the vocabulary has been a bit unclear in a few, from what he has shared with me.

I’m ducking for cover now...

I think it’s pitiful that teachers dumb-down delivery methods because students choose not to read.  I taught school for years, and those who chose not to study for my class also chose not to receive credit for the class.  I’m old school.  I think students need to learn to rise to class requirements, rather than teachers lowering their standards to meet the students’ apathy.  Of course, this only applies to students who have no learning challenges that would preclude them from handling the material.

I accept the fact that this approach may not be popular.  It’s a large part of why I left teaching in the public schools!


I think so much authority has been taken from the teachers and given to the admin who just want to keep their clients happy. The bar has been lowered. Cheating is rampant and done right in front of the teachers at the CC my dd has been attending. And there isn’t a darn thing the teacher can do about it without pushback and oversight from the admin.

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On 2/21/2020 at 7:07 PM, Sneezyone said:

Why would it be strange or controversial to reach kids where they are and teach them in the ways that they learn best? Isn't that the reason so many of us chose to homeschool to begin with? At one point last year, my daughter asked me to download a dictionary app. She said it was because she "needed a dictionary that didn't require internet access". I informed her that we had several versions that would meet her needs, that they were called BOOKS, and she was welcome to retrieve them from our bookshelves at any time of day or night. She laughed her butt off and proceeded to walk away...without the app. There's no point in making kids use a tool that they are unlikely to use when there are other ways to access the same information. At DD's school, they provide textbooks. DD uses hers as needed. She also uses other resources that, as a mildly dyslexic student, are more accessible to her. I think about all of the students who are left behind by insisting on text or lecture as the only medium of instruction. When we know better (about how kids learn) we should do better. If the ultimate results are poor, OK, reevaluate and change course. When the results are not only not poor but good or superior? Get over it.

I really think what Hadley is talking about is catering to laziness and low expectations. Many kids are now being taught with YouTube clips, not because they aren’t capable of reading, but because they’d rather not. I honestly don’t think my niece or either of my nephews read a single book in high school and, I love them, but it shows.

I’m all for using whatever methods are necessary to reach kids and bring them to the next level, but this change is not about that imo.

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14 minutes ago, Mom0012 said:

I really think what Hadley is talking about is catering to laziness and low expectations. Many kids are now being taught with YouTube clips, not because they aren’t capable of reading, but because they’d rather not. I honestly don’t think my niece or either of my nephews read a single book in high school and, I love them, but it shows.

I’m all for using whatever methods are necessary to reach kids and bring them to the next level, but this change is not about that imo.

 

There's a very fine line, I think, between I don't want to read and I don't enjoy reading because I am not able to do it at a level that makes it an effective method of instruction. Your niece and nephew may not have read a full book but that doesn't mean they weren't assigned. There are so many kids with poor reading skills in schools. My DD has never had a formal diagnosis. And if she didn't have parents that actively supported her efforts to adapt the materials for her, she would have very different learning outcomes that might look ver much like "she's never read a book and it shows". In decades past, these kids might be shuffled into trades or, as they are often today, pushed out of school. We put all of these kids on a 'basic' college prep track now. The basic English track at my DDs HS school includes R&J for 9th and things progress from there. Short of a SpEd diagnosis, you figure out how to understand these books or you fail. There is actually a lot of really useful, factual, information on YouTube that can be especially helpful for visual learners. I just don't buy this idea that young people today are more lazy than in the past.

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1 minute ago, Sneezyone said:

 

There's a very fine line, I think, between I don't want to read and I don't enjoy reading because I am not able to do it at a level that makes it an effective method of instruction. Your niece and nephew may not have read a full book but that doesn't mean they weren't assigned. There are so many kids with poor reading skills in schools. In decades past, these kids might be shuffled into trades or, as they are often today, pushed out of school. We put all of these kids on a 'basic' college prep track now. The basic English track at my DDs HS school includes R&J for 9th and things progress from there. Short of a SpEd diagnosis, you figure out how to understand these books or you fail. There is actually a lot of really useful, factual, information on YouTube that can be especially helpful for visual learners. I just don't buy this idea that young people today are more lazy than in the past.

I don’t think young people are more lazy. I just think the overall expectations have been lowered for everyone. Believe me, I was plenty lazy as a teen/young adult. This isn’t a judgment about the kids, but about changes I perceive in the system.

And my ds has some lds and I used many different methods to reach him — reading out loud, audiobooks, software to strengthen his vocabulary, etc. He has accommodations at college. And he is now a very strong student. But, had I decided to just let him watch movies because reading was too hard or to skip writing because it was really difficult for him, he would not now be looking around with surprise at how strong of a student he is at his college.

I know my niece did have books assigned in early high school. And yet she never read them and still walked away with decent grades because all she had to do was show up at a class she was required to attend anyway. My nephews both have lds. One would greatly benefit from a trade. The other would greatly benefit from an education. I only wish I lived close enough that I could give that gift to him because he’s a really great kid.

 

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2 hours ago, Mom0012 said:


I think so much authority has been taken from the teachers and given to the admin who just want to keep their clients happy. The bar has been lowered. Cheating is rampant and done right in front of the teachers at the CC my dd has been attending. And there isn’t a darn thing the teacher can do about it without pushback and oversight from the admin.

I do think this is one of the single biggest changes in education since I was a college student. The view by many that a product is being paid for and purchased and if the consumer isn’t happy with everything about the product they will complain until they get what they want. And in order to keep the system going, at many places standards will be relaxed and things like cheating will be allowed because it keeps the tuition dollars flowing. My husband used to teach a gen ed class every summer at one of our state schools for fun. One year his TA discovered massive cheating by the vast majority of the class which was almost entirely made up of students from the foreign country bringing in the most full tuition dollars. After many years of glowing reviews, he was not asked back. He was fine because the experience was so demoralizing he had no desire to teach the class again.

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2 hours ago, Mom0012 said:

I don’t think young people are more lazy. I just think the overall expectations have been lowered for everyone. Believe me, I was plenty lazy as a teen/young adult. This isn’t a judgment about the kids, but about changes I perceive in the system.

And my ds has some lds and I used many different methods to reach him — reading out loud, audiobooks, software to strengthen his vocabulary, etc. He has accommodations at college. And he is now a very strong student. But, had I decided to just let him watch movies because reading was too hard or to skip writing because it was really difficult for him, he would not now be looking around with surprise at how strong of a student he is at his college.

I know my niece did have books assigned in early high school. And yet she never read them and still walked away with decent grades because all she had to do was show up at a class she was required to attend anyway. My nephews both have lds. One would greatly benefit from a trade. The other would greatly benefit from an education. I only wish I lived close enough that I could give that gift to him because he’s a really great kid.

 

 

It has been the case as far back as my high school years (25 years ago) that reasonably bright students could pass classes and even do very well in them, without reading a text or book. Showing up to listen to the lecture/presentation and participate is whatever activity is scheduled is one sure way to absorb something. Professors in my college classes used to assign textbooks and then teach exclusively from their own photocopied, spiral-bound compilations. High school teachers used to assign books or texts and then give tests that asked for information found in basic summaries whether it was multiple choice or short answer. Even the AP exams in English and history seemed pretty basic to me. I just don't see a major change. I see the work my DD is expected to do in her classes and it isn't the dumbed down caricature that's so often described. I'm not saying that doesn't exist somewhere. I'm sure it does in schools and homeschools alike. It's just not the norm where we live. My kiddo hasn't had a single Geometry test this year that was multiple choice. There are textbooks for every class but art and chorus (they have photocopied sheet music). I have seen my teen pouring over them to study. I have also heard other cheerleaders complain about their Cs and Ds. These kids all have the same stuff and yet the outcomes will be very, very different. Some kids do not study whether it's a textbook or a video and, ultimately, that's on them.

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