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Is it possible to have equitable public schooling? Shouldn't public schools be the one thing at the very least that gives everyone the same experience -- quality of the building, resources, teachers, etc... What kids do with it is obviously up to them, but shouldn't the other things be equal? And, no, I have no answers. I have just been watching a lot of documentaries lately 🙂

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20 minutes ago, SquirrellyMama said:

Is it possible to have equitable public schooling? Shouldn't public schools be the one thing at the very least that gives everyone the same experience -- quality of the building, resources, teachers, etc... What kids do with it is obviously up to them, but shouldn't the other things be equal? And, no, I have no answers. I have just been watching a lot of documentaries lately 🙂

Ideally it ought to be equitable. I think its harder to implement.

 

1) Quality of the Building -- has to do with budget of the district, how the district chooses to spend its money (And how they are forced to spend their money in some cases due to circumstances outside their control) age of the building and how it was designed. They can be retrofitted in the future. But again, that takes money. And it doesn't add capacity even if newer buildings in the district are being built for larger capacities -- or if it does add capacity it is not as "accessible" since it was not designed that way leading to longer walks to get to the nurse, lunch, PE, etc.

 

(ETA: And going to school in a building that is currently under construction/being retrofit is not "equitable" either -- My daughter did that. You do it because you want the better school at the other end. But it greatly restricted their access to the library for that year as well as making it so parents could not come into the school to have lunch with their kids -- so less of that kind of care. They were more crowded and having to make do.)

 

2) quality of the resources -- This is a case where the relative wealth of the neighborhood the school is in can have a big effect. More donations to science labs, library, etc. Higher totals from fundraisers means the playground is newer. Etc.

 

3) Quality of the teachers -- Schools can only hire teachers who apply to the school.  And conditions at the school/attitudes of families towards education at the school can definitely affect teachers wanting to apply.

 

Edited by vonfirmath
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I come from a small nation which has a national curriculum and national exams. Its so small that its easy to standardize education. 

However the government there can only control the minimum. Schools with generous alumni are going to have better building facilities and resources, as well as more volunteers. Teachers were assigned to schools but quality of teachers would naturally vary. Even if all middle school math teachers are math majors, some would still be better at teaching than others. 

Here public schools get their students mainly based on residential addresses. There is less incentive to do better. When we did the enrollment for our kids for public school kindergarten, the attitude was more of take it or leave it as they have more students than vacancies. Even at the school district level, schools are already not equitable. 

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I think equitable school funding should be a goal.  I do not believe that means that everyone has the same experience and that it can get down to making sure that everyone has exactly the same building.  How is that measured?  If a school in Florida has air conditioning does a school in Colorado need the same?  If a school in Texas has a particular size playground, does a school in New York City have to have the same size playground?  If a school in Kansas has a tornado shelter does a school in Louisiana need one?  Should a school in a rural area not have a barn for their agricultural programs because schools in Chicago don't have one?  

I know that probably isn't what you mean, but I do have concerns when the government starts mandating a particular "quality" of something, it often comes down to making sure boxes are checked and not about what makes the most sense in a particular location.  Also, I question some of the measures of "quality"--if my kids were in school, I would prefer them to be at a school that is using 15-year old math books rather than high-tech, expensive computerized math curriculum.  DD went to a private high school; we intentionally passed on some schools with what was deemed the most high quality buildings, computers, and other expensive bells and whistles because we didn't think the underlying education was as good.  

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I agree with you, squirrel.  But I think the only thing that could really be controlled would be curriculum.   I think that public school buildings nationally need to all have basics-- when it's a certain temp, the heat comes on (same with a/c); nurse in each school; counselor in each school; library; etc.  

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As long as public schools are run by individual states and not by the federal government, there is no way to make them equal.  Even then it would be difficult.

There are areas of our country that are very rural who do not have easy access to public facilities such as libraries or museums.  There are still areas of our country that don't have adequate internet access.

Also, there aren't enough "best" teachers to go around.  Even within my own high school there was a difference in the quality of the teaching.  Some students were sort-of-randomly assigned better teachers than other students.  The difference in the educational value of certain courses was evident to me even while I was a student.

Edited by Junie
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Sure it's possible - we just need to remove the silly idea of "local control" and stop funding schools through local property taxes. It'd also help if we put some serious limits on private schools so that the people in charge couldn't let the public schools fall apart, secure in the knowledge that THEIR kids were going to the GOOD schools.

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45 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Sure it's possible - we just need to remove the silly idea of "local control" and stop funding schools through local property taxes. It'd also help if we put some serious limits on private schools so that the people in charge couldn't let the public schools fall apart, secure in the knowledge that THEIR kids were going to the GOOD schools.

Yes.  

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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

It'd also help if we put some serious limits on private schools so that the people in charge couldn't let the public schools fall apart, secure in the knowledge that THEIR kids were going to the GOOD schools.

Where I am from, citizens are not allowed to go to private schools but are allowed to be homeschooled. Parents still resort to after school tuition for their children in public schools.

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There's something similar in Australia, where they calculate the average socio-economic status of kids in a school (you fill in a form when you enrol) and they fund disadvantaged schools at a higher rate. But of course, the local parents can and do run fundraisers which can be enormous and can even fund extra teachers, such as a music or language teacher. There are also other disadvantages which are hard to tackle with money, such as isolation and small numbers. 

The federal government chose to spend a lot of money on school buildings in the last GFC, to inject money into the economy. While there was still rorting of the system, as always, it did end up with most schools getting some decent buildings. 

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I think we overestimate the benefits of nice facilities. Obviously there are places where buildings are falling down and that is not OK.  But, I'd guess that the room that I teach in at our co-op, an often-crowded windowless classroom in a church basement with folding tables and chairs, is worse than any of the high school facilities in our city. We have English and history classes taught in the chapel, where students sit in pews without desks.  But, most of our students are expected do do their work and they do.  Our Science Olympiad team meets in an empty Sunday School classroom with no lab facilities (we do labs in people's kitchens) and we routinely outcompete private schools.  Where I went to high school, a super nice new facility with high tech capabilities, nice gyms, etc was built in an underserved part of town while my middle class school still lacked AC...but my school still outperformed the other academically.  

I think the bigger deal is home stability, cultural exposure (what Core Knowledge was attempting to fix), early childhood behavior and vocabulary, exposure to books and good nutrition.  But, these things are HARD to fix.  Based on my volunteer work, I'd say that what is needed is decent volunteer coordination to match up willing volunteers with jobs that need to be done and a lot of person-hours invested in giving kids the kinds of things that most of us do without thinking.  I don't know how to replicate the hours of conversations, book reading, museum trips, and watching of Animal Planet for kids whose home life includes none of that, but I think it would be very difficult for a standard 6-hr school day to bridge that gap.  Some of the charter schools have after-hours programs that attempt to replicate some of those things, but it's hard to do in an institutional setting.  One of the places that I volunteer takes the kids to do things in the summer - zoo, museum, pool, theme park, etc.  But, I've been at children's museums when a school group comes.  It mostly seems to be a drive-by experience where the kids touch everything and only have 2 hrs.  Meanwhile, my  kids and I spend 4-5 hrs, read the explanations, and talk about how things work.  So, even when an effort is made to try to replicate those experiences, they are more giving the appearance of doing it but possibly missing the most important part - the interactions that get the information into the kids' brains.  Is it possible to give those kids the same experience?  Probably so, but it would take a lot of willing and invested adults to make it happen.  I've been thinking a lot about this over the past several years because this sort of thing is what I plan to do a lot more of once my kids are graduated.  After 6 years of volunteering, it is less obvious to me how to approach this than it was when I started.

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You can't standardize teachers without bringing the best ones down to the minimally acceptable range.

A supportive home life remains the single most predictive factor of academic success, and you can't standardize that either.

All kinds of reform can and should be done with public schools, but standardizing anything other than curriculum just isn't possible. And I'm not sure even that is a good idea.

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I think the same as with kids — equitable doesn’t mean everything is the same.  
 

I think it’s possible to talk about equity with an understanding that it doesn’t mean standardization.

 

I agree with others — I think home environment matters so much.

 

But I think there are things that can help, too, that can be worth doing.

 

I think it’s something where someone can supposedly do “something” with a poor attitude, and it doesn’t have the same effect as doing “something” with a good attitude and not just “going through the motions to say we did it.”

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5 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

You can't standardize teachers without bringing the best ones down to the minimally acceptable range.

A supportive home life remains the single most predictive factor of academic success, and you can't standardize that either.

All kinds of reform can and should be done with public schools, but standardizing anything other than curriculum just isn't possible. And I'm not sure even that is a good idea.

 

And yet, you can still get universally better results than the US by standardizing the curriculum. Look at Finland.

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4 hours ago, Tanaqui said:

 

And yet, you can still get universally better results than the US by standardizing the curriculum. Look at Finland.

Finland is a very homogeneous society where families almost universally support and value education and the school system. Their way *might* produce good results in the US, but then again it might not.

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11 minutes ago, Momto6inIN said:

Finland is a very homogeneous society where families almost universally support and value education and the school system. Their way *might* produce good results in the US, but then again it might not.

I think that’s a huge component of schooling. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around it, but truthfully many families don’t value and support education and the school system.  It’s hard to talk about equity in the school system when so many of the factors that go into academic success are inherently inequitable.

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16 hours ago, Junie said:

s long as public schools are run by individual states and not by the federal government, there is no way to make them equal.  Even then it would be difficult.

I would settle for equality within towns and counties.  My small town has 4 elementary school that feed into one middle and one high school.  2 of the elementary schools are fine, average schools.  2 are so bad they lost accreditation, and had such bad outcomes that the middle school lost its accreditation and the high school is considered poor.  It’s crazy when a motivated person could walk to every single school in the town in one day to have such different outcomes.  

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No, it is inherently impossible. Don't get me wrong, there are many issues that could be greatly improved - the school system in the US is atrocious.
But unless you remove children from their homes and raise them in collectives, you will never eliminate the effect that parental involvement has.
Just look at the one million word gap by age four. What is "equitable public education" supposed to mean with this as a backdrop? Sure, we can have no-child-left-behind if we lower standards so that we all march at the pace of the slowest drummer. We can have standardized national curriculum which inevitably shortchanges children who learn differently, on both ends of the spectrum).
I also see no way to remedy the great geographical differences. A rural school in a sparsely populated county cannot offer the same as a magnet school in a city. Yes I know, online options exist, but they are not equivalent to the presence of highly qualified and motivating teachers.
 

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Have you ever read Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron?

       "THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General. ..."   

To have equitable schools, first you need agreement on what equitable means.  Equal funding to all schools?  What do you do about innate disparities?  Some schools are always going to have more students with significant learning disabilities than other schools.  If the former spend the bulk of their funding on a handful of students with severe disabilities and the later can spread the funding more evenly among all their student is that equitable?  How will the brightest students be taught?  Is it equitable to force them to sit through reviews of material they have mastered because other students need that review?  Is it equitable to allow them to study more advanced material, and thus get even further ahead?   We don't seem to know what to do about the outliers.  

As a society are we going to force parents to put their children in boarding schools from birth?  That way no child has the advantage of a more enriched infancy and childhood than any other.  Of course, you still haven't tackled the issues of prenatal care and genetics.   

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Sherry in OH
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My own two children had educations that were anything but "the same"--the buildings were very difference, the curriculum was  very different, as were the teachers, the materials, the pace, etc.  They each received a good education for that child, but it would have been a disaster for one of them to have the same education as the other.  We lost track early on even how to see if the spending on each child was anywhere near the same.  I am sure the argument could be made that the educations were inequitable and that DD received much more than DS.  I also think the argument could be made DS got much more than DD.  

I know my children were lucky to receive a good education, and that is my desire for all children.  I think wanting something to be equitable and the same, often results in it not being as good as it could for individuals.  The schools that I have seen that are the best see students that are individuals to be educated and focus on providing the best education for that child, rather than seeing students as inputs to a system that all should be treated the same.

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7 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

Finland is a very homogeneous society where families almost universally support and value education and the school system. Their way *might* produce good results in the US, but then again it might not.

 

You know, I am fully capable of recognizing racist dogwhistles when you blast them in my face.

Quote

So you think private schools should not exist? 

If I thought that, I would have said that. I don't believe in mincing my words or hiding my meaning behind anodyne sentiment.

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Equitable means fair or impartial.  It doesn't mean identical. I  believe that funding schools equally, and then adding extra funds based on the deprivation scale of the pupils, would be equitable. It doesn't mean that the outcome for every pupil would be identical, but the process would be fair.

 

Edited by Laura Corin
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I'm not sure how noting that some countries are more homogenous is racist.  Some countries have stronger cultural identities than others, whether race-based or not.  One challenge in coming up with any sort of national framework is that there is little agreement in the US about what should be taught or how it should be taught.  I think that Finland is a country that starts school at 7 and apparently everybody is fine with that.  If we tried that here, some would be thrilled and others would sign their kids up for early enrichment preschool, similar to what already happens, just for longer, potentially leading to less equal outcomes.  Even on this forum there is a lot of disagreement about early start or late, relaxed vs rigorous, how history should be taught, whether advanced science or math is a necessity or a waste of time...  If most people agreed about what was important, or even agreed to 'trust the system', the results would look different than one in which people all want their priorities to determine the plan, at least for their child, whether others have the same priorities or not.  

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A friend has a 14 year old in a neighboring school district. The child is bright, dedicated and a high achiever. My friend was so upset that the district quit offering honors English. 
 

Her friends on FB assured her that honors classes are horribly outdated and unfair and a vehicle for maintaining systematic oppression. They were all very happy and encouraged by the fact that the child can no longer have access to honors classes. Fortunately, my friend has her undergraduate degree in English, so they are just adding in extra resources at home. 
 

Before kids, I taught  in public schools with very low income populations. I know how horrific the inequality really is. 
 

But I don’t understand how holding some kids back directly results in better outcomes for their less fortunate peers. 
 

It is like my telling my kid to finish her breakfast because children are starving in Africa. 

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14 minutes ago, Amy Gen said:

A friend has a 14 year old in a neighboring school district. The child is bright, dedicated and a high achiever. My friend was so upset that the district quit offering honors English. 
 

Her friends on FB assured her that honors classes are horribly outdated and unfair and a vehicle for maintaining systematic oppression. They were all very happy and encouraged by the fact that the child can no longer have access to honors classes. Fortunately, my friend has her undergraduate degree in English, so they are just adding in extra resources at home. 
Before kids, I taught  in public schools with very low income populations. I know how horrific the inequality really is. 
But I don’t understand how holding some kids back directly results in better outcomes for their less fortunate peers. 
It is like my telling my kid to finish her breakfast because children are starving in Africa. 

This. So much of equalizing education has been done by removing opportunities for strong students. 
Often differentiation would not even cost a penny more. My DD's middle school had 12 6th grade classes and 6 6th grade math teachers. They could have offered three different levels of math depending on student ability without needing a penny more for teachers or classrooms. But it is undesired, because it makes people feel bad. Wanna guess why I homeschool?

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38 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

 

You know, I am fully capable of recognizing racist dogwhistles when you blast them in my face.

If I thought that, I would have said that. I don't believe in mincing my words or hiding my meaning behind anodyne sentiment.

I did not recognize the poster's comment as racist.  There are many ways, besides race, that the lack of homogeneity impacts the appropriateness of a standardized curriculum.  I had to alter some of the assignments in DS's writing curriculum because he could not write a paragraph about the morning chores of milking cows.  If the vocabulary in the material is unfamiliar to a student, learning to read is simply learning to sound words.  If you have a child in New York city trying to learn to read a story about a boy on the bayou in his pirogue who sees a nutria as he hurries home to etouffee before the fais-do-do he will struggle as much as a child in south Louisiana reading a tale about a subway journey.  

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8 minutes ago, Bootsie said:

I did not recognize the poster's comment as racist.  There are many ways, besides race, that the lack of homogeneity impacts the appropriateness of a standardized curriculum. 

Ditto. And it is not just curriculum. In a very homogeneous society, people have shared cultural experiences and expectations and a culturally grown understanding of what "educated" means in their society. This has nothing to do with race.
To give one example: in my home country, the idea of "educated" has been strongly influenced by the enlightenment and the educational traditions of the 19th century. To be considered "educated" in that tradition, a person has to know foreign languages, preferably be fluent in several. This expectation is completely out of synch with what is consensus here in the US.
In other cultures, other skills and values have been internalized as educational expectations by society as a whole. This makes it much easier to agree on what a common education should look like than in a country with a very inhomogeneous population where groups bring culturally different traditions and expectations.

ETA: All the Russians I know complain bitterly about what passes for math and science education in this country. They are as Caucasian as the folks in my Midwestern rural area.

Edited by regentrude
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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

 

You know, I am fully capable of recognizing racist dogwhistles when you blast them in my face.

If I thought that, I would have said that. I don't believe in mincing my words or hiding my meaning behind anodyne sentiment.

Ouch.  I had to go back to see where the dogwhistle was.  I guess you could read it that way, but I didn't due to my own experiences living in a rural, 90+% caucasian area. I know for a fact that there are many people here who do not value education - and I would guess most of them are white.  In fact, the BIPOC people I've known in this area (and elsewhere!) seem to value education more than many of the poor, rural, white people I've known.

I actually attended an IEP meeting, as a trained volunteer special-ed advocate, to support a mom who was begging the school to add before-school homework assistance to her kid's IEP.  Her husband was telling the kids they didn't need to do their homework - because he didn't and he's doing just fine (as a 40+ yo worker in one of the few local factories).  The kid was only interested in going to school to play sports, so the regular after-school homework clubs would interfere with sports practice.  If they didn't keep the grades up the kid  would be kicked off the teams, and despite our state truancy and dropout laws the kid would then refuse to attend school at all.  What can the mother do to fight that in her own home, with the father acting as the authority and over-riding her every attempt to get the kid to study?  She can't make the kid go to school - even if she were big and strong enough to physically force them, how would she keep them there and make them pass?

I used to think like @Clemsondana, that I wanted to improve education when my kids are grown.  For the past 20 years I've volunteered in multiple capacities as an education advocate to gain skill and experience, while pushing my own personal education to the max, in preparation for this goal.  Now I'm jaded.  I am tired of fighting to improve the lives of people who not only don't care, but don't want to be improved.  They don't want better for themselves or their own kids.  It's baffling.  And demoralizing.  You can't force other people to become educated, and they'll fight tooth and nail to make sure their kids aren't educated either.  I think some steps in the right direction are noted above, but I don't know what the solution is.

Edited by Amy in NH
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1 hour ago, Tanaqui said:

 

You know, I am fully capable of recognizing racist dogwhistles when you blast them in my face.

I'm really sorry if that's what you think. But that was not my intent. It might have been nice if you'd asked me to clarify instead of automatically assigning to me the worst possible interpretation. Peace out, I'm done.

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6 minutes ago, Amy in NH said:

Ouch.  I had to go back to see where the dogwhistle was.  I guess you could read it that way, but I didn't due to my own experiences living in a rural, 90+% caucasian area. I know for a fact that there are many people here who do not value education - and I would most of them are white.  In fact, the BIPOC people I've known in this area (and elsewhere!) seem to value education more than many of the poor, rural, white people I've known.

My experience agrees. My county is 90.7% white. 

Edited by regentrude
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4 minutes ago, regentrude said:

My experience agrees. But then, many of the BIPOC people in this town are themselves better educated than the average white person in the (90.7% white) county.

My rural county is 95.76% white.

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1 hour ago, Amy Gen said:

A friend has a 14 year old in a neighboring school district. The child is bright, dedicated and a high achiever. My friend was so upset that the district quit offering honors English. 
 

Her friends on FB assured her that honors classes are horribly outdated and unfair and a vehicle for maintaining systematic oppression. They were all very happy and encouraged by the fact that the child can no longer have access to honors classes. Fortunately, my friend has her undergraduate degree in English, so they are just adding in extra resources at home. 
 

Before kids, I taught  in public schools with very low income populations. I know how horrific the inequality really is. 
 

But I don’t understand how holding some kids back directly results in better outcomes for their less fortunate peers. 
 

It is like my telling my kid to finish her breakfast because children are starving in Africa. 

I agree with you, but (regarding your last sentence) in a lot of areas it's more like telling your kid not to eat breakfast because not everyone gets to have one.

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Just now, Junie said:

I agree with you, but (regarding your last sentence) in a lot of areas it's more like telling your kid not to eat breakfast because not everyone gets to have one.

You are absolutely right. After I posted, I thought, “Wait, that example is closer to the opposite!”

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The elementary school my kids attended pre-pandemic had kids from about 28 different languages. Some of the children attending were beginning kindergarten with almost no English. It puts them on a different footing than kids who are fully fluent in English, and are beginning readers in English.....even when those families are all in the same income bracket (and many are—as they are tech worker families from Asia). Add in the migrant worker families who are dealing with food and housing insecurity and you’ve got another level of complexity in to the issue. It’s difficult to have parents help with homework if they don’t have basic literacy or math skills. 
 

I don’t think you can look at school equity without looking at race, language, incomes, expectations, etc. 

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On 1/15/2021 at 2:53 AM, Tanaqui said:

 

And yet, you can still get universally better results than the US by standardizing the curriculum. Look at Finland.

Finland standardized the population, so that helps. 😆  Their teachers also enjoy better pay, more respect, and fewer work hours. Those things really do make the job market more competitive.  Finland has fewer people than Massachusetts.  If you just compare the two, does MA really come out that far behind Finland?

Edited by KungFuPanda
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On 1/15/2021 at 11:03 AM, Tanaqui said:

 

You know, I am fully capable of recognizing racist dogwhistles when you blast them in my face.

If I thought that, I would have said that. I don't believe in mincing my words or hiding my meaning behind anodyne sentiment.

My local school district has a population with  101 languages represented. It has nothing to do with intelligence but let's face it when kids come to school with over a hundred native languages which also represents 100 different backgrounds, it complicates things. Younger kids, of course, get up to speed on English faster and often head to AP classes but older kids will take longer getting fluent. 

 

My state recently had a budget battle involving whether we should have a minimum of 20 students instead of 10 to open a school in a village. Do you think a school with 2 or 3 high schoolers should have a special math teacher, science teacher, foreign language teachers, English teacher. Typically the have one secondary and one primary teacher for those schools and trust me that alone is extraordinarily expensive in a place where a gallon of milk can be $10 and kids disappear from school to do subsistence hunting and fishing. Not to mention forced boarding school in the previous generation made a mess of family structure creating many other problems. 

 

Just saying "standardized curriculum" makes me want to laugh. I do like that our University offers online classes that help the high schoolers if they have access to the internet (heck some don't have plumbing) and public homeschool or distance learning was trucking up here before regular homeschool became popular for sure but the last thing my state needs is Feds who don't know crap making more rules. We need flexibility and creativity to get the most education to our students and no it won't look like what Silicon Valley offers. To do that you would have to force relocate people.

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The most effective public school I ever taught in was the least standardized. Kids come with a range of backgrounds and experiences. I have taught 5 yr olds who know how to  mix a bottle of formula, heat it in the microwave, test it, feed the baby, and change the baby so they can drop the baby off with the neighbor before they go to catch the school bus, but don't recognize any letters on a concepts of print test.  I have a hard time saying that first kid is "behind" the kid who comes in well versed in the ABC song and Sesame Street and can generally read 3 letter words-or even the one who is able to write sentences in cursive and who's favorite book is Harry Potter, which they're reading for the third time.  But, a standardized curriculum expects me to teach all three using the same curriculum, and would deem the first child as failing, the second as on target for the beginning of Kindergarten, and the third would be bored to tears but expected to be in the same classroom because they happen to be 5. 

 

So yes, standardize resources so that schools with low tax bases have a healthy physical plant, enough teachers and classrooms to not be overcrowded, can afford to hire qualified teachers, have a library and a librarian, and stuff like that. Don't give one school Smartboards when another can't even afford chalk for their 1950's era chalkboards. But please don't tell me that all 5 yr olds need to be reading "Hop on Pop" by the middle of November or else they're failing and I've failed as a teacher. 

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These issues are tremendously hard. Our county is very diverse. I lived in the poorer, southern part and was bussed to a high school in the northern, richer part. The county made sure to upgrade schools in the southern part first, so my high school was pretty literally crumbling around our ears, but we were winning all sorts of academic accolades and sending graduates to top colleges. My brother who didn't get bussed was one of 12 kids in the school (1500 students, about) to score over 1000 on the SAT, and they literally threw those kids a party and made t shirts. Many, many parents cared at the poorer school. Probably an equal percentage, to be honest. For the most part, though, the parents in the poorer area who cared often didn't have the time, knowledge, or resources to be particularly effective in making substantive changes, while the parents in the wealthy end who didn't care were bouyed by those around them. Their kids got cool library programs delivered to their day care, lots of guest speakers on career day, and all sorts of other benefits.

Currently with Covid, parents on the wealthier end are calling more strongly for in person classes, while those in the poorer end are more concerned about kids bring home illness to families. There's a lot of rancor as both sides are angry at others telling them what's best for their kids.

(currently I live right in the middle, literally and figuratively)

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I think it depends a bit on what standardised curriculum means.  They are rolling out a national curriculum in Australia - which is also a very diverse place. It doesn't mean that everyone gets the same textbooks or whatever. They provide a set of outcomes and they can be met in a range of different ways. And with the smaller high schools, I believe you can enrol in particular subjects as a Distance Ed student, just as if you were a remote student studying from home. They have both Special Ed distance units and a new Gifted focused Distance Ed program too. 
 

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1 hour ago, bookbard said:

I think it depends a bit on what standardised curriculum means.  They are rolling out a national curriculum in Australia - which is also a very diverse place. It doesn't mean that everyone gets the same textbooks or whatever. They provide a set of outcomes and they can be met in a range of different ways. And with the smaller high schools, I believe you can enrol in particular subjects as a Distance Ed student, just as if you were a remote student studying from home. They have both Special Ed distance units and a new Gifted focused Distance Ed program too. 
 

I think a lot depends upon how narrowly defined "outcomes" is.  

I had a wonderful second grade teacher.  She read about Hellen Keller to our class.  I read every book about Hellen Keller and Annie Sullivan I could get my hands on.  I started trying to teach myself sign language.  I immersed myself in the biography section of the library.  The teacher inspired me to learn in many ways.  

DS had a teacher who was from Mexican heritage and taught about many legends and traditions from that culture that I was totally unaware of.  She inspired DS to learn in many ways--from her particular strength (and never mentioned Hellen Keller).  

Even a half-century later I can fondly remember learning about Hellen Keller and what an impact it had on me, I was disturbed when my state legislature spent days debating whether Hellen Keller should be one of the elementary outcomes--how is a person an outcome?  Then education comes about memorizing a bunch of pre-approved facts not about learning how to learn.  

 

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A conversation about whether or not schools can be equitable where a majority group of white people support the idea that because we're a very heterogeneous society, we probably don't stand a chance and where equitability as a concept and goal is dismissed by some is one that, I'm sorry, does feed into a racist narrative. I don't doubt the good intentions of the statements - and I agree that understanding that we can't replicate small, homogeneous countries' school system here as easily is an important factor to be aware of when people toss around things about how great those countries schools are. But also, intentions are not everything. This conversation is repeating a lot of tropes about education in the US that simply do not support change because they assume we're doomed out of the gate.

One of the first things a conversation about equitable schools would have to start with would be to recognize that this issue has gotten significantly worse, not better, in the last several decades and that a big part of that has been school de facto re-segregation. A lot of that is not only along racial lines, but also economic ones. However, a lot of it is along racial lines. We were moving toward integrated schools and BIPOC folks were making huge gains. And then we moved away from integrated schools and lost that ground.

And I think we have to recognize what Ruth brought up - that giving the "same" funding is not a solution if the goal is equal access to education and an equitable experience. We'd have to fund poorer schools more heavily. Governments can do that - there are models that do it. We can choose not to use those models... but then that's a choice we're making not to do those things. It wasn't impossible to be done.

And, honestly, on a homeschool board that's heavily Christian and white, I think we have to acknowledge that many of the options *we* have used for our children - namely home education and charter schools - have been a part of the problem in terms of funding. Many early homeschool families left the schools because they didn't like integration. Talking about how the schools were "bad" now was a proxy for complaining about race in many early homeschool communities. We probably all chose homeschooling because we wanted the best for our individual children. But this is something we have to grapple with, I think. Obviously we all believe in some measure of school choice. To what extent does that hurt equitable schools? Because it definitely does.

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On 1/15/2021 at 9:51 AM, Arcadia said:

I come from a small nation which has a national curriculum and national exams. Its so small that its easy to standardize education. 

However the government there can only control the minimum. Schools with generous alumni are going to have better building facilities and resources, as well as more volunteers. Teachers were assigned to schools but quality of teachers would naturally vary. Even if all middle school math teachers are math majors, some would still be better at teaching than others. 

Here public schools get their students mainly based on residential addresses. There is less incentive to do better. When we did the enrollment for our kids for public school kindergarten, the attitude was more of take it or leave it as they have more students than vacancies. Even at the school district level, schools are already not equitable. 

Same here.  we have a state curruculum, teachers salaries and funding is via central government and allocated gala try and attempt equity and all teachers have the same training.  we still don't have equity.  

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The 3 closest high schools to me are 80-90+% white; the students that I volunteered with attend schools that are 70-90% black, but sometime soon I'm set to start volunteering at a place that helps underserved white students (obviously not specific to white students, but based on the demographics of the school that's what I'm expecting).  My statements about different expectations don't come from racial differences; they come from the differences in what I heard from parents at the ball field or differences between parents at co-op, 90% of whom were white.  And, for perspective, I grew up in an area where schools all varied from 30-70% white and black (there were other groups mixed in, but all public schools had a mix of black and white students, although which was in the majority varied between schools) and I spent a decade living in a state that was almost 50% Hispanic.  

My concerns are specifically with how I see standardized curriculum implemented.  In textbook selection, I don't like that companies cater to what CA, FL,TX, and NY mandate.  I'd like for there to be more variety, or short topical books rather than full texts so that teachers can mix and match the same way that I do.  I don't like that they mandate a list of people to cover instead of basic content (the American Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement) that can be discussed in different ways.  I would feel the same about a mandated list of books to read for English. Students should know something about Impressionism, but there's no need to specify which works of art they see.  Could a state or national plan be done that way?  Absolutely!  Is that how it tends to be done?  Not that I can tell. 

I've written elsewhere that I absolutely hate that students in my state are required to all earn the same molecular biology-based life science credit in high school  For college-track students, it's what they need.  But, for special ed students, spending 2 hrs a day for an entire year trying to master transcription, translation, and glycolysis is not a good use of time.  I'm putting together a 1/2 credit horticulture elective for my high schooler next year.  It could easily be a full credit (and may, if we like it enough).  Something like that would be a better life science class for many students - it's less technical and more practical.  They would learn some of the basic biology and have skills and knowledge that they could use.  It's also not an option because it doesn't fit the state standards for life science.  

But, if we managed to fix that legislatively - if there were now 2 approved ways to get that life science credit - there would still be complaints about equitability.  In a perfect world, all college-bound and interested students could have the molecular class and all others could choose which they wanted.  But, then there would likely be differences between schools because there would be different proportions taking each class.  It might even be that some schools only offered one class, since only a handful of students wanted the other.  Then we have a system where students at one school get offered college track and students at the other get practical science, which is clearly not equitable.  So, to fix that we end up with what we have now -  one choice, but it's clearly not giving everybody something useful and there are plenty of students earning a 'gentleman's C' so that they can graduate.  

By no means do I think it's hopeless - I wouldn't spend my time volunteering for a lost cause.  But, I think it's hard and not always obvious what effects a particular choice will have.  

Edited by Clemsondana
Typos!
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One problem I have is that even when there are multiple paths, there is often a college bound path and a non-college bound path. When we visited schools, one school that might have actually been a good fit had two "top paths"-a technology based STEM path, where humanities classes were definitely box checking, and a humanities heavy, but actually kind of weak on math and science IB program. But, there was no option to pick and choose between the courses without losing the "takes the most difficult classes available" recommendation for colleges, so it wasn't encouraged-even though if you could take your science and math in the tech program and your humanities in IB, you would actually be doing higher level coursework across the board. A student who wants to teach elementary school probably would be better served by @Clemsondana's horticulture class and the ACS Chemistry in the Community chemistry, even though they are college bound, because such classes will better prepare them to explore science with children, while there will be little from a molecular bio or calculation heavy physical chemistry that they can take with them into the classroom.  But often in order to get the more practical classes at all, you have to step off a college bound track-and, at minimum, you will make yourself less competitive for scholarships-and college is expensive enough and hard enough to pay for that you simply can't afford to do that.  Even homeschoolers really have to look at ticking boxes, although we have more flexibility than pretty much anyone else. 

 

 

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I agree, @Dmmetler.  It's hard to sort out.  I don't want students to 'choose easy' thinking that they can do the hard stuff 'later' and wind up behind and struggling in college because they are unprepared for the STEM degree requirements.  On the other hand, some students know that they aren't going in that direction and their time would be better spent doing a basic science course and then volunteering, working, practicing, etc.  But, on the flip side, I don't want students so unexposed to subjects that they miss learning about something that they would end up loving.  And, I don't want their education to be so narrow that 'I'll never use that' becomes the way that they eliminate learning...almost everything, really, since most of us only use a small smattering of our education on a daily basis!  And, I agree that dividing things into college prep and non-college-prep is unfortuante.  It would be ideal if students could craft a program based on goals.  

 

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