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1 minute ago, 8filltheheart said:

In addition every school district is its own fiefdom under its own superintendent (all responsible under a state superintendent, but school systems tend to operate under their own degree of individual authority.)  A small state might have 100+ districts.  A large state might have close to 1000.  (CA and NY both have in the upper 900s.)  In the 50 states, that is a lot of individual school systems.

NZ is the size of KY based on population size and geography (NZ is a bit bigger). We can be compared only to them, really. 

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I'm someone who rejected the whole concept of rigor in early elementary school.   That is why I homeschooled (not religious reasons).   We tried public school first with all three of my kids and my ol

I think some families don't really deeply consider the "cost" of home education. I think they consider the financial implications, but not how much work it might be or should be for the parents. 

I wish there were some data on this, honestly. Like, I see most homeschool regulation as easily circumvented or an annoyance. But I would actually love to see if having pointless hoops yields better r

2 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

That's the whole problem: there are lots of way it MIGHT work, but then there are also ways that public schools MIGHT work, but then they don't 😕 . 

But possibly you're arguing that getting homeschooling right is actually relatively easier? That might be true... 

I'm arguing that regulation of homeschooling can be done well. And it can be done in a way that does not limit the freedom of the parent to instill their own values and follow their own methods. I am also arguing that there is a minimum level of education that the state can and should require, and that a couple of workbooks from wallmart don't cut it.  I refuse to accept that the America's educational system is broken forever. That it can never be fixed. Sure, right now, it is broken -- both the school system and the homeschooling regulation. But there is a future in finding an effective and fair way to make sure all children are educated, and some sort of regulation is a part of that goal IMHO. 

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Just now, lewelma said:

I'm arguing that regulation of homeschooling can be done well. And it can be done in a way that does not limit the freedom of the parent to instill their own values and follow their own methods. I am also arguing that there is a minimum level of education that the state can and should require, and that a couple of workbooks from wallmart don't cut it.  I refuse to accept that the America's educational system is broken forever. That it can never be fixed. Sure, right now, it is broken -- both the school system and the homeschooling regulation. But there is a future in finding an effective and fair way to make sure all children are educated, and some sort of regulation is a part of that goal IMHO. 

FWIW, I am not convinced that homeschooling regulation IS broken. 

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1 minute ago, lewelma said:

But there is a future in finding an effective and fair way to make sure all children are educated, and some sort of regulation is a part of that goal IMHO. 

Oh, you know I agree with you.

But thinking out loud, given how screwed up the schools are, how can we expect this system to actually come up with something sensible that could be applied to homeschoolers?? And the homeschoolers are a teeny fraction of the system, anyway -- why worry about them first? 

Basically, I do wonder if all that championing homeschooling regulations does right now is distract people from the real problems. It's always fun to have a scapegoat... but really, we badly need to fix the public schools FIRST. Then we can worry about homeschoolers. And if we ever live in this world, then yes... I'd like it to include regulations on homeschooling. 

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8 minutes ago, 8filltheheart said:

FWIW, I am not convinced that homeschooling regulation IS broken. 

Ah, well, it depends on the state! I don't like forcing people to turn in useless portfolios, or to evaluate a homeschool based on how well a student does on a standardized test.  I don't agree that any person should be allowed to homeschool if they are either incompetent or indifferent. I have not read a single regulation in this thread that people think accomplishes something. So I do think that homeschooling regulation is broken. 

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1 minute ago, Not_a_Number said:

Basically, I do wonder if all that championing homeschooling regulations does right now is distract people from the real problems. It's always fun to have a scapegoat... but really, we badly need to fix the public schools FIRST. 

There is going to be a BIG shake up given what has happened with schooling in the USA due to Covid. There will be a LOT more kids at home even once the schools go back.  Homeschooling is very quickly going to blend with online public schooling. I predict that they will try to regulate it as a block. 

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1 minute ago, lewelma said:

There is going to be a BIG shake up given what has happened with schooling in the USA due to Covid. There will be a LOT more kids at home even once the schools go back.  Homeschooling is very quickly going to blend with online public schooling. I predict that they will try to regulate it as a block. 

Yeah, that might happen, and frankly nothing good will happen if it does. I can't imagine they'll come up with something sensible. Do you think they will? 

I'm already in a high regulation state and don't really mind -- it doesn't change what we do. Not that I'm looking forward to the required tests, but I don't care that much, either. 

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

Yeah, that might happen, and frankly nothing good will happen if it does. I can't imagine they'll come up with something sensible. Do you think they will? 

I'm already in a high regulation state and don't really mind -- it doesn't change what we do. Not that I'm looking forward to the required tests, but I don't care that much, either. 

I'm glad my ds could apply as a homeschooler to universities and that it meant something.  I think the massive hybrid system that is coming (or already here) is going to be a disaster. I am hopeful that individual states will lead the way with innovative solutions that then can be replicated by other, bigger states.

In the end, I have come to believe that there is a limit in size of a democracy where its effectiveness and economies of scale are gone. India and the USA are too large to be effectively run. 

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1 minute ago, lewelma said:

In the end, I have come to believe that there is a limit in size of a democracy where its effectiveness and economies of scale are gone. India and the USA are too large to be effectively run. 

It's an interesting question. It's not like the states on average do a great job either, though! It's all rather hard. 

 

1 minute ago, lewelma said:

I am hopeful that individual states will lead the way with innovative solutions that then can be replicated by other, bigger states.

That would be great. I'm not holding my breath, though. 

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So what would the desired outcome look like? 
 

See I think education is broken because we don’t have a shared vision. Parents in my district think our local school is the most amazing place. Our local school is high performing, but if you ask me, it’s the same as any other district. I mean what they teach is the same. The difference? More parents pay attention in my district so the pass rates are high, while the neighboring district has a larger proportion of parents who don’t care about the education. But if you actually sit in either classroom, you get the same math curriculum and the same  “fill in the worksheet” education. Reading level is low because books assigned are chosen based on whatever the latest political wind brings.... Most people think “click away” curriculum, as I like to call, it is just fine.

So I can’t think of fixing anything until we can all agree what outcome we want. 

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30 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

So I can’t think of fixing anything until we can all agree what outcome we want. 

Eh, I don't think people can know what they want if they've never seen it. Like, most people don't have any idea what mastery in math and science looks like. We can't get them to agree to that because they don't know their kids don't have it. 

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3 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Eh, I don't think people can know what they want if they've never seen it. Like, most people don't have any idea what mastery in math and science looks like. We can't get them to agree to that because they don't know their kids don't have it. 

Maybe. 
 

But then I watch the war go on over reading lists. And I realize there is no way to build consensus. The best we can do is build micro communities with people with shared vision. 

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1 minute ago, Roadrunner said:

Maybe. 

But then I watch the war go on over reading lists. And I realize there is no way to build consensus. The best we can do is build micro communities with people with shared vision. 

I don't think we can build consensus 😂. But we might still be able to make the schools better.

Anyway, I should go to bed -- tomorrow is DD4's birthday! 

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4 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Eh, I don't think people can know what they want if they've never seen it. Like, most people don't have any idea what mastery in math and science looks like. We can't get them to agree to that because they don't know their kids don't have it. 

California tried fixing low math scores in 2013, by getting rid of the Algebra 1 requirement for 8th graders. They just moved the requirement to 9th and lower the bar. I don’t have much faith that the government or school districts will fix the education system.

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17 minutes ago, SDMomof3 said:

California tried fixing low math scores in 2013, by getting rid of the Algebra 1 requirement for 8th graders. They just moved the requirement to 9th and lower the bar. I don’t have much faith that the government or school districts will fix the education system.

Oh yes. 😋

So our highly ranked district basically doesn’t even have textbooks. There isn’t much homework given at all in math, and most work is done in the classroom. Basically if you can copy down what a teacher is saying, you are good to go. The depth of learning is nonexistent in math. And there is no longer the drill, so there is no more memory by repetition either. Most parents are super happy with this scenario. In my district parents are very pleased with their children’s grades in math. But then when they get to calculus and fail the AP exam, the answer is “my kid doesn’t test well,” “testing is unfair and stressful.” 
 

I remember approaching our elementary school teacher (we started out as a PS family) and asking them which children’s literature the kids would be covering in elementary school so we would read different books at home. I got a blank stare back. They don’t have a literature curriculum. I tried to talk about this fact with couple of other parents and basically got confused looks. So we left. 
 

Parents want tests to go away, not for their kids to want to pass them. 

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57 minutes ago, SDMomof3 said:

California tried fixing low math scores in 2013, by getting rid of the Algebra 1 requirement for 8th graders. They just moved the requirement to 9th and lower the bar. I don’t have much faith that the government or school districts will fix the education system.

 

27 minutes ago, Roadrunner said:

Parents want tests to go away, not for their kids to want to pass them. 

CAHSEE was retired too

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7 hours ago, lewelma said:

I'm glad my ds could apply as a homeschooler to universities and that it meant something.

I also think about this.  My hope is that the nomenclature may change - online schooling will take a new name and we traditionalists will remain "homeschooled."

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35 minutes ago, Harpymom said:

I also think about this.  My hope is that the nomenclature may change - online schooling will take a new name and we traditionalists will remain "homeschooled."

I have never run away from being a homeschooler.  My kids' transcripts say Last Name Homeschool as school name.  Going forward, that might be bonus.  🙂

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8 hours ago, SDMomof3 said:

California tried fixing low math scores in 2013, by getting rid of the Algebra 1 requirement for 8th graders. They just moved the requirement to 9th and lower the bar. I don’t have much faith that the government or school districts will fix the education system.

I don’t have much faith, either. But if I’m wishing for things, I wish they would.

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

I doubt stuff like this will do a thing. I’m not surprised.

I am from a country with a national curriculum and it helps set a baseline. National exams were set to that curriculum. Kind of like how SAT, ACT and AP exams are the same regardless of which state you reside in. 

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Just now, Arcadia said:

I am from a country with a national curriculum and it helps set a baseline. National exams were set to that curriculum. Kind of like how SAT, ACT and AP exams are the same regardless of which state you reside in. 

I do think national standards are a good idea, but there are bigger issues in US schools.

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4 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I do think national standards are a good idea, but there are bigger issues in US schools.

Locally, the issue seems to be elementary school teachers are great at English but math phobic. My kids had four teachers who are good at math, one in brick and mortar public school who is an economics major, three in online public charter. The three in online charter prefers being subject teachers to being homeroom teachers, which is logistically possible for online schools. One could teach k-8 math, two adjunct in community colleges for math.

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Just now, Arcadia said:

Locally, the issue seems to be elementary school teachers are great at English but math phobic. My kids had four teachers who are good at math, one in brick and mortar public school who is an economics major, three in online public charter. The three in online charter prefers being subject teachers to being homeroom teachers, which is logistically possible for online schools. One could teach k-8 math, two adjunct in community colleges for math.

Yes, that’s the issue I’ve seen as well. It was a significant part of why we’ve pulled DD8 out of school.

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12 hours ago, lewelma said:

NZ is the size of KY based on population size and geography (NZ is a bit bigger). We can be compared only to them, really. 

 

12 hours ago, lewelma said:

I'm arguing that regulation of homeschooling can be done well. And it can be done in a way that does not limit the freedom of the parent to instill their own values and follow their own methods. I am also arguing that there is a minimum level of education that the state can and should require, and that a couple of workbooks from wallmart don't cut it.  I refuse to accept that the America's educational system is broken forever. That it can never be fixed. Sure, right now, it is broken -- both the school system and the homeschooling regulation. But there is a future in finding an effective and fair way to make sure all children are educated, and some sort of regulation is a part of that goal IMHO. 

See, this sort of thing really gets me. I'm going to try hard not to get on my soapbox too much, but every time someone talks about "In country x, this is much better than in the US" I get all crazy pants and my head explodes, because it's almost always true that country x has 1) a much smaller population, 2) a more culturally homogeneous population, 3) high levels of interpersonal and institutional trust (in the government ministers, in the police, etc.), 4) fewer immigrants and refugees and language learners, 5) a much simpler history not involving continuing conflicts between its groups (I suspect this also helps with trust, as certain groups did not have 100-400 years of discrimination, forced relocation, etc.), 6) a lower poverty rate and more homogeneous standard of living among its groups.

My metro area of Houston from Sugarland to the Woodlands has over 7 million people, with 1.8 million kids, while as you noted, NZ has 1.1 million kids and less than 5 million people. NZ has very high levels of trust.

The key problem is that statements like "the American educational system" are not really helpful, because it differs so much across states, districts, groups, etc. In this huge and diverse place, which is all locally governed (which is what it is - other countries that are centrally governed may think that's crazy, but that is our system. I don't know who I'd want at headquarters with clipboards deciding things for everyone -- the Californians? The Texans? New Yorkers? Alabama folks?) The system is not always broken -- look at Utah. It has a fairly homogeneous population of perhaps more stable than average families due to the LDS influence, and they get fairly good value with good results for spending something like the lowest amount per pupil among the states (4 or 5k?). If you look at stable families, if you take away the poor kids and kids in the middle of the aftermath of recent divorce, if you take away the new English learners and new immigrants, American kids do pretty well. If you look at the school systems in places with higher earners with higher educations and more stable marriages, almost all the kids do very well, including minority kids. So what's going on is not that the "American school system" is always terrible. It's that there's a TON going on that impedes learning in all these incredibly different places and cultures and families that are struggling. Our middle class and affluent kids are doing well. But you can't regulate that people not be in poor and unstable conditions, and you can't even hike up spending and get magically better results. My husband volunteered for a time in NYC schools (per pupil spending: 28k) in places called things like "Soaring Eagle Academy of Excellence" etc. and the kids had no paper, pencils, or books, and the teacher had totally given up trying to teach, and there was violence everywhere. What does Sweden or Japan or New Zealand do differently that can help THESE kids? How do you import a country's culture in only ONE way, without sharing all the history and all the circumstances that continually create and sustain that culture?

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2 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

Our middle class and affluent kids are doing well.

Are they? By what standards?

They are doing MUCH BETTER than how poor kids are doing, yes. But having taught the fanciest of those kids at the college level... no, they aren't doing well. They are passing tests, yes. But learning well? No. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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16 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Are they? By what standards?

They are doing MUCH BETTER than how poor kids are doing, yes. But having taught the fanciest of those kids at the college level... no, they aren't doing well. They are passing tests, yes. But learning well? No. 

And this is the issue. Unless people have the same vision of what “doing well” means, you can’t fix anything. 
By the sort of standards we are talking about here setting for homeschoolers, those communities are doing extremely well. 

Having said that I do think better set of textbooks would help. Math textbooks that we have seen used in public schools are terrible. The reason old Soviet math books are so good is because they let a couple of brilliant mathematicians develop them. If we at least had a better set of math/science texts and we had a core in literature that we cover, it would be a great start. 
I am also a big proponent of specialized schools - let the dancers dance, and musicians play, and mathematicians solve problems. I mean we can still have a good basic education for all, but maybe if we engaged kids in areas of their interest, we could get their attention? And this is exactly the reason homeschooling can be so amazing for some kids. 

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22 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

 

If you look at stable families, if you take away the poor kids and kids in the middle of the aftermath of recent divorce, if you take away the new English learners and new immigrants, American kids do pretty well. If you look at the school systems in places with higher earners with higher educations and more stable marriages, almost all the kids do very well, including minority kids.

I understand this, but it's not my experience.  Admittedly, it's anecdotal, lol, but....
I grew up in a poor school.  Quite a few kids were ESL. Many were at the poverty level or below. A lot came from unstable households.

Now I live in an area that is highly affluent.  The average house price here is insane, though most would consider themselves middle class (it's quite on the upper end of that) and the community is stable, very few ESL, very few transient kids. Highly educated parents in an area where education is valued and prized. The demographics are starkly different.

Recently I went back to where I grew up and was pleasantly surprised to find they still use the same reading materials they used when I was a kid.  And then I got curious, because 40 years is a long time with one set of materials, right? So I began to look up test scores. 
My elementary school: double the state average of proficient readers in 3rd grade. 

Compared to here: They nearly doubled the percentage (it's about 38% proficiency for this state's test)

They were both about the same in math.

 

The problem wasn't the ESL, poverty, education at home or stability.  The problem is, my elementary school taught strictly phonics in a method that WORKED, and the schools here are still playing around with balanced literacy and loose goals.  Neither of them have hit on how to teach math effectively, but that's a different matter.

There are a lot of factors that affect the brain, I'll give you that, but I think we have to limit the scope of that investigation after knowing that the schools aren't teaching basics well, especially to children who need it the most.

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14 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Yeah, I see that. And gifted kids, too, for that matter. I mean, I tried sticking DD8 into a normal classroom 😛. It wasn't going to work. 

As a teacher, I recognized that the best thing I could do for the schools was to keep my little statistical outlier out of them. Because the regular grade level program, even with grade skips, was unlikely to be effective in elementary school, and the work it would have taken to accommodate my kid would have taken away from the rest dramatically. 

 

I do think that the right high school could have worked, but honestly, by that point the local college was providing a good high school experience with a lot more flexiblity to pursue other interests, and there simply wasn't a Herpetology and humanities, especially cultural anthropology and sociology, but also a strong interest in science education and gifted Ed magnet available. Homeschooling was simply easier. 

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Just now, Dmmetler said:

As a teacher, I recognized that the best thing I could do for the schools was to keep my little statistical outlier out of them. Because the regular grade level program, even with grade skips, was unlikely to be effective in elementary school, and the work it would have taken to accommodate my kid would have taken away from the rest dramatically. 

Yeah, I wasn't even mad they couldn't accommodate DD8 (although the fact that she wasn't allowed to bring her chapter books to school is another -- that was just pure anti-intellectualism.) But as you say, it wasn't going to work and I didn't think there was any point in trying. 

DD8 is now in high school math, because that's where she WANTS to be. I occasionally tell her that in school she'd still be learning to multiply to scare her straight 😉

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Yes, but I guess all of this is the point: we don't really understand what works. We don't understand what the trade-offs are when we try to improve an area and actually do a worse job. We don't know why exactly poverty and race and family do or do not have an impact. When a kid is doing well, we don't know who should get credit and what should be replicated and how, and when doing badly, we don't know how to fix it. There are pilot programs with excellent results, that disappear when the program is scaled up.

To bring it back to homeschool regulations -- it's easy to be the Decider, and say, well I can tell you the difference between a competent unschooler and a lazy non-schooler. And as long as I am in charge -- and the people who are like me that are "good people," that is, agree with me and think what I think -- are the ones in charge, it all works. This is what I mean by trust and homogeneity. When the regulator doesn't like you, doesn't like what you believe, and wants desperately to circumvent you and teach your kid what they want, even when their method is also turning out unprepared and emotionally wounded kids, then these regulations really matter, and their subjectivity and enforcement matter, and who gets to be the Decider matters. That's what low trust looks like.

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8 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

Yes, but I guess all of this is the point: we don't really understand what works. We don't understand what the trade-offs are when we try to improve an area and actually do a worse job. We don't know why exactly poverty and race and family do or do not have an impact. When a kid is doing well, we don't know who should get credit and what should be replicated and how, and when doing badly, we don't know how to fix it. There are pilot programs with excellent results, that disappear when the program is scaled up.

So do some more pilot programs. Figure out what makes them tick and try to replicate it bigger and bigger. If results disappear when you scale to 10 schools, don't try again with 1000 schools 😛 . Don't scale straight up from 1 to 1000. 

 

35 minutes ago, HomeAgain said:

The problem wasn't the ESL, poverty, education at home or stability.  The problem is, my elementary school taught strictly phonics in a method that WORKED, and the schools here are still playing around with balanced literacy and loose goals.  Neither of them have hit on how to teach math effectively, but that's a different matter.

Exactly. At the end of the day, some things work and some don't. And we should spend more time figuring out what those things are and then actually TRAINING teachers in those methods. Why in the world are we still doing "balanced literacy"?? It's completely debunked. 

At the end of the day, the reason more affluent districts do better isn't that the teaching is better -- it's that the parents aren't willing to have the kids fail at the same rates. They are able to teach the kids themselves or can afford tutors. So that's all the rates tell you. 

When I evaluate my teaching methods online, I really like using precalculus for that. Why? Because it's a CLEAN experiment. Most of the kids know almost no precalc when I start teaching them. That means I can evaluate what I actually taught them myself. It's not corrupted data. 

In the same way, poor districts are actually better data than rich districts. No one is going to pick up the slack for the poor district. So when we say those schools aren't working... what we're really saying is almost no schools are working, but the signal is hidden because some parents can pick up the slack. That's a deeply, deeply broken system. 

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33 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

Yes, but I guess all of this is the point: we don't really understand what works. We don't understand what the trade-offs are when we try to improve an area and actually do a worse job. We don't know why exactly poverty and race and family do or do not have an impact. When a kid is doing well, we don't know who should get credit and what should be replicated and how, and when doing badly, we don't know how to fix it. There are pilot programs with excellent results, that disappear when the program is scaled up.

To bring it back to homeschool regulations -- it's easy to be the Decider, and say, well I can tell you the difference between a competent unschooler and a lazy non-schooler. And as long as I am in charge -- and the people who are like me that are "good people," that is, agree with me and think what I think -- are the ones in charge, it all works. This is what I mean by trust and homogeneity. When the regulator doesn't like you, doesn't like what you believe, and wants desperately to circumvent you and teach your kid what they want, even when their method is also turning out unprepared and emotionally wounded kids, then these regulations really matter, and their subjectivity and enforcement matter, and who gets to be the Decider matters. That's what low trust looks like.

Thank you! Yes!

I'm gobsmacked by how quickly and placidly many homeschoolers are begging for more government interference. These kinds of threads were so different 10 years ago.

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12 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

So do some more pilot programs. Figure out what makes them tick and try to replicate it bigger and bigger. If results disappear when you scale to 10 schools, don't try again with 1000 schools 😛 . Don't scale straight up from 1 to 1000. 

 

Exactly. At the end of the day, some things work and some don't. And we should spend more time figuring out what those things are and then actually TRAINING teachers in those methods. Why in the world are we still doing "balanced literacy"?? It's completely debunked. 

At the end of the day, the reason more affluent districts do better isn't that the teaching is better -- it's that the parents aren't willing to have the kids fail at the same rates. They are able to teach the kids themselves or can afford tutors. So that's all the rates tell you. 

When I evaluate my teaching methods online, I really like using precalculus for that. Why? Because it's a CLEAN experiment. Most of the kids know almost no precalc when I start teaching them. That means I can evaluate what I actually taught them myself. It's not corrupted data. 

In the same way, poor districts are actually better data than rich districts. No one is going to pick up the slack for the poor district. So when we say those schools aren't working... what we're really saying is almost no schools are working, but the signal is hidden because some parents can pick up the slack. That's a deeply, deeply broken system. 

 Another factor that makes data collection difficult is that the better schools - the ones with fewer behavior problems - disproportionately have the better teachers.  When I was in school the advanced/gifted classes usually had better teachers because the parents wouldn't have tolerated their kids being taught by somebody incompetent.  Actually, with what I've just said, there are 2 different problems.  One is parents demanding teachers that are at least competent (and being involved enough to know), and the other is that, as teachers get more experience, they often use their seniority to transfer to better schools. And, for that matter, teacher skills aren't necessarily easily transferrable.  Some schools need a stern approach because the kids won't behave without it.  In other schools, if the teacher didn't show up one day the kids wouldn't cause any problems so the teachers can focus all of their energy on lessons.  I have taught enough to know that I'm not good with kids who aren't reasonably compliant.  It might be a skill that I can learn, but the fact is that you're potentially selecting for a different skill set.  

One interesting thing that I listened to recently was a guy talking about how his childhood montessouri school had several kids on scholarship, and looking back he assumed that the idea was to give promising kids more academic opportunity.  He said that it was interesting because they didn't really take advantage of the learning environment, and, looking back, he thinks that they didn't know how.  Even things that seem natural to us, like picking up a book or starting a hands-on  project, are learned behaviors.  I was intrigued because I've advocated a more montessouri approach to pre-K and K, and his argument was, at least once the kids got to more academics, these kids needed to be 'taught harder' because intellectual curiosity wasn't something that they'd seen modeled. 

And, finally, after 6 years of volunteering at the same place, Covid changes caused me to switch to a different afterschool program with a different demographic.  The kids at the new place aren't necessarily a lot more advanced academically - I helped one girl with her 8s in multiplication and the idea that 8x7 was the same as 7x8, and that you could count by 8s just like by 5s (which she knew) was a revelation.  But, it's easier to be optimistic because the kids are generally well behaved - not little angels, but they generally do what they're told and aren't aggressive.  The schools that fed my previous place did a lot to teach behavior and I saw many kids become much easier to work with over the years.  But, when I think about what the kids are likely to encounter as they get older, kids who will at least sit in school and behave and at least slop through their homework have a chance at learning, while kids who won't do what they're told and get suspended from school for fighting are much more at risk.  There's just a lot to unpack, on top of decisions about teaching methods.

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I'm late to the discussion, so maybe my comments are out of place. But it seems to me that the two main goals we're all talking about when we talk about education are (1) a standardized basic level of education that every child in America is entitled to (This by definition assumes that it can be somehow measured and also implies that it can be enforced if necessary, neither of which I am not at all sure either can or should be done, but that's a separate argument in my mind.) and (2) an ideal individualized education that takes into account individual preferences and strengths and local needs/resources (This by definition means that some people's ideal individualized education will not be up to snuff by someone else's standards.)

These two goals are usually not very compatible with each other. And only one of them is even remotely achievable at all via an institution for large groups of people. I struggle to provide my kids with an individualized eduation and I only have 6 of them, I can't imagine having a school full of hundreds of kids and somehow being expected to individualize their experience. But schools right now are being pressured to achieve both goals, by both the government and by society at large, for every single public schooled kid in America. No wonder so many schools are failing - we are expecting an institution to complete a task for which it is not well suited. And now some want to extend that reach and have the schools take charge over homeschooled kids to try to make sure they achieve both goals too, when they're not even able to do it with the kids under their umbrella? No thanks.

No matter how dedicated teachers are and no matter how much money you throw at the problem, it's still going to be a conundrum. Is your goal to teach so that everyone meets the minimum standard (whatever that is and whoever decides it)? Or is your goal to teach so that each one meets his/her own personal goals and potential (even if that means that some kids don't reach what you or I think is a minimum standard)?

I know several homeschoolers IRL. Most of them are not as academic as we are, but most are doing just fine, judging by their kids' life after high school - experiences in CC and trade schools and the work force and occassionally the university. Some are, unfortunately and IMO, doing a pitifully inadequate job at equipping their kids to deal with modern life. But you know what? Their kids who have never had anything beyond Algebra I (and whose mom even wondered out loud to me if they really needed that?) are helping run their family's farm and are self sufficient and can fix a tractor like nobody's business. Others are plumbers and HVAC contractors and they work hard, own their own business, and provide for their families even though I am 100% sure they've never read Shakespeare or even really know who he was.

I'm not saying I have an answer. I think there's something to be said for letting communities decide what they want their schools to look like and how they want their schools to function ... and I also realize there are big pitfalls to that approach as well. But it just seems to me that we as a society have evolved to place where we expect something from schools that they are incapable of providing, and then we act surprised when they don't perform. So all these arguments about what needs to be done to improve performance seem like they're arguing about how to steer the ship when they haven't even agreed on where the ship is heading to yet.

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So in my state regulation is :

FiIe a notice of intent with the local school district for students ages 6-16 ... I do this via email in late Spring.

In the notice you commit to providing X amount of instruction (the minimum which is what I commit to each year - 172 days of 4 hoursor 688 hours.... I tracked for the first few years... we always hit that 688 before /in February) ... instruction is required to "include constitution, reading, writing, math, history, civics, literature and science." 

We are supposed to have "attendance records, testing/evaluation records and immunization records" and copies of the NOI readily available. 

We test or evaluate in grades 3,5,7,9 and 11 - the test has to be a nationally informed test - so the test our state public school students use is not allowed- most common are CAT, ITBS, ACT and SAT. The alternate evaluation method is more like a portfolio review or assessment by an independent 3rd party - a teacher from a public or private school, a licensed psychologist or someone with a graduate degree in ed. In theory a student scoring below the 13th percentile on the test could be required to return to school... I've never heard of any such thing happening. In fact I'm pretty sure no one EVER so much as looks at homeschool documents in most districts. (The districts in my area have homeschool departments so maybe someone there actually files them.) I'd assume parents who have students who would score that low are either involved special needs parents who would choose assessments instead, not English speakers who could choose an assessor who could see their students progress  ...  or are truly neglectful of education and would skip testing or assessment anyway.

We also have options with academies and different rules if the homeschooling parent is a certified teacher. I let my certification lapse before homeschooling so I don't know the details on these variations. 

Most of the homeschoolers I actually know are very committed to purchased packaged curriculums (and horrified that I basically only use something like that for Math)... and use Saxon to either Algebra  II or Advanced math. Or Teaching Textbooks. Lots of Apologia science. (I see them at co-op ) ... A lot also use some sort of pathway to DE. Not all go on to university but they're mostly decently educated people. 

Edited by theelfqueen
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2 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

 

See, this sort of thing really gets me. I'm going to try hard not to get on my soapbox too much, but every time someone talks about "In country x, this is much better than in the US" I get all crazy pants and my head explodes, because it's almost always true that country x has 1) a much smaller population, 2) a more culturally homogeneous population, 3) high levels of interpersonal and institutional trust (in the government ministers, in the police, etc.), 4) fewer immigrants and refugees and language learners, 5) a much simpler history not involving continuing conflicts between its groups (I suspect this also helps with trust, as certain groups did not have 100-400 years of discrimination, forced relocation, etc.), 6) a lower poverty rate and more homogeneous standard of living among its groups.

My metro area of Houston from Sugarland to the Woodlands has over 7 million people, with 1.8 million kids, while as you noted, NZ has 1.1 million kids and less than 5 million people. NZ has very high levels of trust.

The key problem is that statements like "the American educational system" are not really helpful, because it differs so much across states, districts, groups, etc. In this huge and diverse place, which is all locally governed (which is what it is - other countries that are centrally governed may think that's crazy, but that is our system. I don't know who I'd want at headquarters with clipboards deciding things for everyone -- the Californians? The Texans? New Yorkers? Alabama folks?) The system is not always broken -- look at Utah. It has a fairly homogeneous population of perhaps more stable than average families due to the LDS influence, and they get fairly good value with good results for spending something like the lowest amount per pupil among the states (4 or 5k?). If you look at stable families, if you take away the poor kids and kids in the middle of the aftermath of recent divorce, if you take away the new English learners and new immigrants, American kids do pretty well. If you look at the school systems in places with higher earners with higher educations and more stable marriages, almost all the kids do very well, including minority kids. So what's going on is not that the "American school system" is always terrible. It's that there's a TON going on that impedes learning in all these incredibly different places and cultures and families that are struggling. Our middle class and affluent kids are doing well. But you can't regulate that people not be in poor and unstable conditions, and you can't even hike up spending and get magically better results. My husband volunteered for a time in NYC schools (per pupil spending: 28k) in places called things like "Soaring Eagle Academy of Excellence" etc. and the kids had no paper, pencils, or books, and the teacher had totally given up trying to teach, and there was violence everywhere. What does Sweden or Japan or New Zealand do differently that can help THESE kids? How do you import a country's culture in only ONE way, without sharing all the history and all the circumstances that continually create and sustain that culture?

I've heard this and similar arguments before.

I think the key difference is institutional trust and tolerance for government involvement in general and less of a culture of individualism (things like socialized medicine, more government support for marginalized people, higher taxes).  Which directly affects poverty and wealth gaps and standard of living, and population health, and both directly and indirectly supports successful education systems.

It's also true that the US is more populous that just about everywhere else, but I'm not sure that's as relevant.

I don't buy the homogeneity vs diversity argument or simple history argument.  I think that other countries are more racially and culturally diverse than most American realize - NZ is about 70% white (with, like USA, minorities concentrated in the cities, and whiter in rural areas), for example, and Singapore is also a multiracial society, about 70% ethnic Chinese.   Both also have complex colonial histories and complex immigration histories.  Their histories are objectively not simpler.

I'm most familiar with Canada, of course.  We have enormous numbers of immigrants and refugees, and a complex immigration history.  We have an ugly colonial history, that included slavery.  We are racially and culturally diverse.  Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world.  Schools are run by the provinces, (similar to in the US, education is a provincial responsibility, not a national one).  We have a functional public school system.  Imperfect, of course, but nothing like the mess I hear about south of the border.

But, we also have Big Government (and the high taxes that go along with that) =  well-funded schools, well-paid teachers, socialized medicine, loads of other social supports, and, heck, the current government even has a universal basic income on its agenda. 

Of course, I know that this would never fly in the USA.

 

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17 minutes ago, wathe said:

I don't buy the homogeneity vs diversity argument or simple history argument.  I think that other countries are more racially and culturally diverse than most American realize - NZ is about 70% white (with, like USA, minorities concentrated in the cities, and whiter in rural areas), for example, and Singapore is also a multiracial society, about 70% ethnic Chinese.   Both also have complex colonial histories and complex immigration histories.  Their histories are objectively not simpler.

It's definitely complicated, and I don't have experience with each place. But I can ask: is there regular rioting in those places when one side doesn't win an election? Are there groups in these places that call for the police to be defunded and believe the system is in all ways stacked against them? If someone in power talks about "our culture" or "our society" is there a sense among many that that phrase is embarrassing or offensive? So yes, I don't know why this is more of a factor in some places and not in others. 

23 minutes ago, wathe said:

But, we also have Big Government (and the high taxes that go along with that) =  well-funded schools, well-paid teachers, socialized medicine, loads of other social supports, and, heck, the current government even has a universal basic income on its agenda. 

Again, I think this sort of thing is at least partly about tribalism. When *your* people are in power and doing what you think they should, it is easy to feel good about Big Government. I'm not saying anything about you personally (I don't know you, I'm sure you're a lovely person), but I DO think a lot of this is tribalism. When the people in power are "like you" you will like that, and when they aren't, you won't. If suddenly the culture of the people at the top in Canada looked more like, say, Mississippi or Alaska, you would be less likely to trust them, and when they made some decisions you didn't like, you would start changing how you felt about the power of government. It's akin to "I like when people who are like me make decisions for everyone." In the US, there's a lot of distrust because we don't think the people who disagree with us have our best interests in mind. And there's lots of evidence of that now in Canada, with the supreme court and the laws that are basically criminalizing lots of religious beliefs and telling people they don't have freedom of speech for certain subjects, and just in the last few years the "trust in institutions" score in Canada, once very high, is dropping quickly. These actions by the Canadian government are incredibly concerning -- unless you happen to hold the exact same beliefs as the government does. But again, that's no different from saying "Speech controls and criminalizing beliefs are terrible if they were directed at me, because I believe correct things, but great when directed at others I think are wrong." 

Sorry, this is getting off track. But it is at the heart of regulations - who decides? And what if they aren't like you at all?

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10 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

When *your* people are in power and doing what you think they should, it is easy to feel good about Big Government.

I’d like us as a society to agree that education should be evidence-based, no matter what “side” we’re on. As is, NEITHER side believes that, as far as I can tell. 

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31 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

It's definitely complicated, and I don't have experience with each place. But I can ask: is there regular rioting in those places when one side doesn't win an election? Are there groups in these places that call for the police to be defunded and believe the system is in all ways stacked against them? If someone in power talks about "our culture" or "our society" is there a sense among many that that phrase is embarrassing or offensive? So yes, I don't know why this is more of a factor in some places and not in others. 

Again, I think this sort of thing is at least partly about tribalism. When *your* people are in power and doing what you think they should, it is easy to feel good about Big Government. I'm not saying anything about you personally (I don't know you, I'm sure you're a lovely person), but I DO think a lot of this is tribalism. When the people in power are "like you" you will like that, and when they aren't, you won't. If suddenly the culture of the people at the top in Canada looked more like, say, Mississippi or Alaska, you would be less likely to trust them, and when they made some decisions you didn't like, you would start changing how you felt about the power of government. It's akin to "I like when people who are like me make decisions for everyone." In the US, there's a lot of distrust because we don't think the people who disagree with us have our best interests in mind. And there's lots of evidence of that now in Canada, with the supreme court and the laws that are basically criminalizing lots of religious beliefs and telling people they don't have freedom of speech for certain subjects, and just in the last few years the "trust in institutions" score in Canada, once very high, is dropping quickly. These actions by the Canadian government are incredibly concerning -- unless you happen to hold the exact same beliefs as the government does. But again, that's no different from saying "Speech controls and criminalizing beliefs are terrible if they were directed at me, because I believe correct things, but great when directed at others I think are wrong." 

Sorry, this is getting off track. But it is at the heart of regulations - who decides? And what if they aren't like you at all?

Right - Canada is super complex and very diverse, with lots of interesting politics and hot political issues.  The core difference is that, despite enormous cultural diversity, there is general acceptance of relatively more government involvement (higher taxes, socialized medicine, social programs) in citizens' lives than in the USA, which, I think, leads to more social and community stability, which makes functional public schools possible.  And I think that's generalizable to all the countries you hear about with functional public school systems (NZ, Singapore in this thread, and others not mentioned), and where USA is a outlier.

Whether or not big government is the best kind of government in general is a entirely different topic altogether.

Edited by wathe
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19 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I’d like us as a society to agree that education should be evidence-based, no matter what “side” we’re on. As is, NEITHER side believes that, as far as I can tell. 

This comes around full circle, though.  What is evidence to you will reflect what you value and may not be evidence to me or what I want our culture to value.  

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1 minute ago, Harpymom said:

This comes around full circle, though.  What is evidence to you will reflect what you value and may not be evidence to me or what I want our culture to value.  

I guess I see that, but we don’t even agree on having evidence-based education for things which we basically agree how to evaluate, like math.

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4 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

 

See, this sort of thing really gets me. I'm going to try hard not to get on my soapbox too much, but every time someone talks about "In country x, this is much better than in the US" I get all crazy pants and my head explodes, because it's almost always true that country x has 1) a much smaller population, 2) a more culturally homogeneous population, 3) high levels of interpersonal and institutional trust (in the government ministers, in the police, etc.), 4) fewer immigrants and refugees and language learners, 5) a much simpler history not involving continuing conflicts between its groups (I suspect this also helps with trust, as certain groups did not have 100-400 years of discrimination, forced relocation, etc.), 6) a lower poverty rate and more homogeneous standard of living among its groups.

I'm happy to bow out of this conversation if what I have to offer is of no use.  But I will first just mention that you have a misperception of NZ in a number of ways.  

NZ does not have a culturally homogenous population -  currently 27% of its population was born overseas. And 40% of its workforce non native. 

NZ has only a slightly more homogenous standard of living.The USA ranks 52nd and NZ 91st on the gini index out of 173 countries. With lower scores being more inequality.  So NZ is not in the top 5 or something. We are both middle of the pack. 

NZ also has a brutal colonial history that is still a huge burden today.

This is completely off topic, but there is a habit to assume that NZ is like the Scandinavian countries in homogeneity both culturally and economically, and it is NOT. 

Bowing out.

Edited by lewelma
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I would have thought sorting out homeschooling would be easier, if the anti-homeschooling part of the powers-that-be got it into their heads that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states for good reason. After all, at that point, there are typically only about 50 sets of rules, and if there was broad agreement on what counted as "good enough" homeschooling, those sets of rules would be fairly similar. Whereas public schooling will probably always be county-by-county.

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54 minutes ago, lewelma said:

NZ also has a brutal colonial history that is still a huge burden today.

This is completely off topic, but there is a habit to assume that NZ is like the Scandinavian countries in homogeneity both culturally and economically, and it is NOT. 

Bowing out.

I'm sorry if I was contentious! I really don't mean to be, lol, I think I let myself get too amped up. When I said "culturally" homogeneous, I said that on purpose because it's not the same as "ethnically" and I think many places manage to have lots of ethnic diversity and yet come together as a community and culture just fine. And in some places (like the US) you can have people of the same ethnicity strongly divided culturally. I see that New Zealand is very diverse. I didn't mean to imply that it wasn't. I don't honestly know why we have such trouble in the US with trust and places like NZ with complicated histories manage better. I wish it were as easy as taking the best from other places, since it sounds like it works very well. That is a blessing!

 

 

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1 minute ago, Emily ZL said:

When I said "culturally" homogeneous, I said that on purpose because it's not the same as "ethnically" and I think many places manage to have lots of ethnic diversity and yet come together as a community and culture just fine.

I think it's possible to be culturally non-homogeneous and yet have high levels of trust 🙂. I would guess that's where New Zealand is -- not that it's become homogeneous. 

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1 minute ago, Emily ZL said:

 I don't honestly know why we have such trouble in the US with trust and places like NZ with complicated histories manage better.

Totally off topic now, but.....I have lived half of my life in each country, and I have done a LOT of study and thinking on this exact issue. I have come to believe that NZ has more trust because it has better political leaders in all 4+ parties -- competent and compassionate and able to lead. So then the question is why?  There are 2 reasons I believe. 1) Because NZ is small, everyone knows every other person through 3 or 4 degrees of separation. This is overlaid with the Māori cultural approach of extended kinship bonds which has been incorporated into mainstream culture. Because of this, there is no corruption because you can't hide. NZ ranks #1 on the corruption index. No corruption, means we can trust our leaders.  2) So the next question is how do we *get* the good leaders?  I believe that we get better leaders in both main parties than in the US because of how they are chosen in each country. The primary system in the US has a design fault that selects more extreme candidates. In contrast, in NZ the candidates for Prime Minister are chosen by the party for excellence in leadership. 

So in my eyes, these 2 things mean that we have both better leaders and more trust in them when they are in office. 

Totally off topic, but there is a lot of complexity as to why some countries can govern better than others. This is just the tip of the iceberg in the stuff I have studied and considered.  Maybe I should retrain as a political scientist rather than a environmental geologist next year. 🙂

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