Saturday, September 22, 2007

THE SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS IN OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION SYSTEM

I was intending to write about something totally different this time, but comments made to me by a co-worker inspired me to choose this topic instead.  I've had strong feelings about our now sub-standard public education system for years now.  I have seen a decline in the quality of education which has led to a noticeable decline in even the most basic skills in our young people.

Larry, the Cable Guy once joked in one of his routines about ordering a meal in a fast food restaurant which totaled $4.81.  He said to give the teenager working the cash register $10.01, and "watch the fun begin."  He presented it in a humorous way, but he was also commenting on the fact that many young people can't do basic math such as counting back change.  Is this a problem with the intellect of today's young people?  No, absolutely not.  It's a serious indictment of our public schools.

Another very serious indictment of our public schools is how well home-schooled children do in comparison to their public school counterparts.  According to a 1997 study entitled Strengths of Their Own: Homeschoolers Across America by Dr. Brian Ray, the 5,402 home schooled students performed significantly higher than public school children.  A second study conducted by Dr. Lawrence Rudner of 20,760 home-schooled students showed that those who were home-schooled their entire school-age years had the highest academic achievement.  Lest anyone play the race card here, the studies have shown that race is not a factor.  Parents do a much better job than the professionals.  Home-schooling also blows away the myth MORE MONEY = BETTER EDUCATION.  The average cost of a home-schooled child in the Strengths of Their Own study was $546.  The average cost per student in public school was $5,325.  Yet, the home-schooled children tested on an average in the 85th percentile while public school students scored in the 50th percentile.  Getting your money's worth as a taxpayer?  I think not.

This leads me to another point.  As you know, school systems are continually coming to you, the taxpayer, with their hand out.  School boards are constantly wanting to raise property taxes, and in states that allow it, institute a local-option sales tax and keep it going for funding. They lead you to believe that they are really hurting for money and don't have enough fundng to provide an adequate education.  No matter how much funding is available, haven't you ever noticed that there never seems to be enough?  The idea that school systems don't have enough money is a total myth.  Governmental entities as a whole all lead you to believe this.  Go get a copy of your school system's budget.  It's public information.  It will surprise you I'm sure.  There's at least one study that showed that school systems spend all they can get.  It was published in the School Reform News September 1, 2007. 

School children are being indoctrinated with this belief.  A twelve year old daughter of a family in our neighborhood came to the door selling to raise funds for her school.  We said something about her having to go selling things to raise funds for the school.  She replied,"Our school is poor."  Just like that.  It's unfathomable that this particular school has stooped to this level.  Another story:  a co-worker told me this week about what he referred to as a scam by the elementary school two of his children attend in a neighboring county.  The school announced that it was going to have an "art day" and got the students excited about it.  My co-worker thought it was great too and the children would really enjoy it.  The students were to spend all day creating artwork.  Then, the school said the students' work would be framed, and the best works hung in the school permanently.  It turned out none of their work was hung.  Anyway, my co-worker was thinking this was an awesome thing to do for the children.  Then came part three of the scam:  parents could purchase their child's work for $25.00 each.  No explanation of where these proceeds were to go, just if the parents didn't "claim" their child's artwork, it would be disposed of.  Unbelievable, and my co-worker was very angry about it.  He also has a problem with the door-to-door selling to benefit the school.  He put it very well when he said that his children were not laborers for the school.  I totally agree.

Back to the quality of education problem.  In an article written for Hunan Events by Representative Scott Garrett, R-New Jersey, Returning Education to the Basics by Leaving No Child Left Behind, the problems with the No Child Left Behind initiative are outlined.  I appreciated the spirit of this initiative, but as Rep. Garrett stated, it "entirely missed the mark. It centralized accountability in Washington with the bureaucrats and appointees at the U.S. Department of Education, completely bypassing the legislators in 50 state capitals, countless township school boards and local elected officials, and -- most importantly -- administrators, educators, and parents allacross the nation.  Instead of encouraging teachers to be creative in engaging their students in the classroom, NCLB’s testing requirements have forced teachers to “teach to the test.” Many states have actually lowered their standards in order to maintain their federal funding.  NCLB hasn’t encouraged creativity or competition.  Instead, it set standards to a lowest common denominator and established a race to the bottom." 

"Here’s just one example:  A school in my district that is consistently cited in publications as one of the top performing schools in the State of New Jersey was actually placed on the Department of Education’s highly publicized early warning list.”   But, this is not an underperforming school.   In fact, every year, nearly 100% of the students graduate and go on to attend college and the school’s average combined SAT score hovers at 1100.  This is a school bursting at the seams with motivated teachers, students, and parents.  But, it was put on the warninglist because one student did not meet NCLB’s requirement for what they deemed was 'adequate performance.'   This is not an isolated example." 

"Its important to note that all 50 states have taken some form of action, whether it is legislative or legal, against No Child Left Behind. You can view this link to see what specific action your state has taken.  It’s clear that states are speaking in unison that they don’t believe NCLB is meeting the needs of their children.  But despite the state action taken, NCLB does not allow states to opt out of these federal education mandates unless they are willing to give up the federal education funding that goes with it.  I want to give states the ability to opt out without loss of their taxpayers’ federal funding."  This is the type of extortion to which Washington has always resorted to force issues on the states."

Dr. Walter E. Williams, who is a professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, wrote an article entitled What's Wrong with Education?  Click on the link to the article.  It's very revealing.  I'll hit only a couple of high points here.  The first will be a direct quote:

"Here are some test questions. Question 1: Which of the following is equal to a quarter of a million? (a)40,000 (b) 250,000 (c)2,500,000 (d)1/4,000,000 or (e)4/1,000,000? Question 2: Martin Luther King, Jr. [insert the correct choice] for the poor of all races. (a) spoke out passionately (b) spoke out passionate (c) did spoke out passionately (d) has spoke out passionately or (e) had spoken out passionate. Question 3: What would you do if your student sprained an ankle? (a) Put a Band-Aid on it, (b) Ice it, (c) Rinse it with water."

"Having reviewed the questions, guess which school grade gets these kind of test questions: sixth grade, ninth grade, or twelfth grade. I'm betting that the average reader guesses: sixth grade. You'd be wrong. How about ninth grade? You'd still be wrong. You say, "Okay, Williams, I can't believe they're twelfth grade test questions!" Wrong again. According to a School Reform News (9/01) article "Who Tells Teachers They Can Teach?", those test questions came from tests for prospective teachers. The first two questions are samples from Praxis I test for teachers and the third is from the 1999 teacher certification test in Illinois. And guess what. Thirty-one percent of New York City public school teachers fail teacher certification tests. According to the Chicago Sun-Times (9/6/01) 5,243 Illinois teachers failed their teacher certification tests. "  UNBELIEVABLE!!!  I'll move on.

"The Chicago Sun-Times a<SPANCLASS=CORRECTION id="">lso reported that, "One teacher failed 24 of 25 teacher tests - including 11 of 12 Basic Skills tests and all 12 tests on teaching learning-disabled children. Yet, that teacher was assigned to teach learning-disabled children in Chicago. That's classic the blind leading the blind."

"Most of these inept teachers are graduates of the nation's schools of education. Unfortunately, for the most part, schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, are home to students who have the lowest academic achievement test scores when they enter college and they score the lowest among college graduates taking tests, such as GRE, MCAT, or LSAT, to enter professional schools. If we're really serious about improving public education, we'd shut down schools of education. There is absolutely no relationship between teacher quality and having graduated from a teacher's college and being teacher certified. There may even be a negative relationship as suggested by the fact that students who are home-schooled by parents who've had no teacher training have achievement scores higher than 85 percent of all other students."

"Another serious education problem isthe fact that many teachers have little or no training in the subjects they teach. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 36 percent of public school teachers -- 972,000 teachers out of 2.7 million nationwide - didn't major or minor in the core subjects they teach. In other words, there are teachers teaching math and science who might not have taken a single class in those subjects."

This is very alarming and is an indication that if you must have your child in a public school, you as a parent have to stay very actively involved in his/her education.  You as a parent must continually hold school officials accountable.  This situation also makes one wonder about the state of tomorrow's workforce.  Just think about the areas of engineering, technology, and medical practice that we all depend on every day.  There needs to be a turnaround, and quick.

By the way, it was a home-schooled boy that won the National Spelling Bee this year, and will be taking calculus at the University of California at Berkeley this fall.  He's thirteen years old.  

10 comments:

jckfrstross said...

they need more money to pay the big shots in the district more money. amazing the money very rarely goes to the students

Deb

candlejmr said...

I totally agree alot with what you are saying.  I have two kids currently in the public school system (one in HS and one in middle school) and a college sophomore who has already graduated HS.

Some things I find totally ridiculous...

1.  NCLB.....this leaves the GIFTED children behind.  There is nothing in schools any longer for kids with above average intelligence.  Why?  Because all of the resources are going towards those on the opposite spectrum.

2.  Our HS is on that list of "not deemed adequate" this year.  Why?  Because one special ed kid DID NOT SHOW UP TO TAKE THE TEST AND DID NOT MAKE IT UP.  

3.  A kid who doesn't speak English has to take and PASS the exact same test my above average kids have to take.  They can't even speak English!  How the heck can they pass that test?  NCLB again.

4.  Band, Choir, Music, Art, Drama...all being cut from schools because of lack of funds...because all funds in NJ have been frozen for the last FIVE YEARS and they need all this extra money for the NCLB program.  Even though studies have PROVED that all of these activities further the kids test scores, grades and performance in school.  Not to mention it makes them responsible and hard working and team players.  

5.  Oh yeah, did you know this?  Special Ed kids MUST have special services that are deemed by the government.  It's the LAW.  But don't expect any extra funding.  You are just supposed to be responsible for paying for what they tell you you have to pay for.  YOU MUST DO THIS...but we're not giving you any money to do it.

I can go on and on and on.  I know we can't keep taking taxpayers money to fund these schools.  Its' too much and it's just not fair.  But we there must be a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY to fund public education because the current way IS NOT WORKING!

((hugs))
Jean

bhbner2him said...

As schools in Texas goes, our district holds its own for its size.....but what does that really say?  My son has a high IQ.  Only made medicore grades in High School as he didn't want to do more than necessary and partly to try to keep clear of classroom politics.  He's well versed in math and reading so I know he can master anything he puts his mind to.

I strongly feel though, that every year that goes by it becomes more and more a game that is played.  And it's not as much who learns the most or does better, but who plays the game the best.

I have never liked the school sells stuff.  Mostly because you end up with countless parents selling to friends and co-workers the same things over and over so that their child can win some cheaply made toy.  I have always said my children may sell if they want to, but I will not sell for them.  And I don't buy off of other parents, easily getting out of it as I explain I don't by anything from even my own children if I don't need it or it is not a good deal.

My head hurts now.  ;o)  Think I'll go look for some fluff.  -  Barbara
http://journals.aol.com/bhbner2him/LifeFaithinCaneyhead/

pharmolo said...

Cannot comment on the US education system, Dirk, but here in the UK they are complaining about a drop in standards. Employers say they get schoolleavers who cannot spell or do calculus properly, which is dreadful.
Can I make a request for an entry from you? Healthcare in the US.

lifesabench6 said...

Hi Dirk- You have picked one of my passion subjects here!  (First, I want to thank you for your kind words on my journal about Eddie Jeffers.  I know that Dave and his family appreciate so many wonderful people and their heartfelt prayers right now, and I am forwarding the comments to Dave as they come in.  Thank you so much. )
Now- as you know I homeschool- we're only in the first grade now, but I have been teaching my son since pre k. He is a very hyper little guy- and his attention is all over the place- much as I was like at his age (so I know where he gets it from!) I know that if he was in public school, not only would he not get the true help he needs- but they would be wanting him on ritalin or any other drug- or even possibly sending him to a special class or whatever.  He's a smart kid, but because of his ADHD, he has a hard time grasping things.  It is a very hard job trying to settle down for learning time, but we don't do too much at a time and we play lots of games which we make fun to learn.  I know there are wonderful teachers out there who would probably be very good for him, but unfortunately, the children get a new teacher every year- and they may not all be as kind.  Also there are more bullies in shools these days too.    There are a lot of folks who say they couldn't afford to homeschool- but there are ways.  Believe it or not, there are even widows and single dads homeschooling.  In my support group there are parents who have very little money (me- prime example) and yes, we'd like to be able to try and keep up with the Jones's, but to me, my boy comes first.  We also have a mom who has just lost her husband- but she's continuing on no matter the difficulties.  We have parents who have lost jobs- but are still homeschooling.  That's what part of our support group is there for- to help each other by prayer and helping out where ever is needed.  TO BE CONTINUED!>&gt

lifesabench6 said...

Continued--I can't wait to go to Mr. Williams' article- that guy is a genius!  As for Larry the Cable guy's experiment- I agree there too.  Years ago when I worked at Burger King (until I could find a better job- I am not picky when it comes to employment!) I could not get over how many of the workers there could NOT make change!  It was pitiful!  The education system is broken- and no amount of billions of $ are going to fix it.  We learned more on way less money when we were kids- seems like if they spent less time on multicultural and socialist experiments- somebody would figure that out! Until they do- I will school my son where our forefathers did- at home!  God Bless you Dirk!  Carolyn

heavenlybama said...

Hi Dirk,
Thx for stopping by and the well wishes.  My daughter graduated high school 2 yrs. ago.  But the public school system is terrible and has been sub-standard for more than 20 yrs.  When a vocational hs school lets my cousin graduate (back in 1980) at a 3rd grade reading and writing level just because they want to get him out of the school, it makes me mad.  He can't even write a letter and his spelling I have to decipher.  I think one of the biggest problems now is they use computers more than books like back in the day when we were attending school.  You can find anything on the computer without actually learning it just to graduate.  It's a sad situation.  If I had any school age children now, I would be home-schooling them.  I, to agree that as a parent with children in public school need to be very involved in their education these days.  Schools that let kids graduate with a 3rd grade reading and writing level is not doing the kid any favors for the real world.
~D
http://journals.aol.com/heavenlybama/journey-to-success

queeniemart said...

i could write a book here.
my city had all the elementary and middle schools torn down and rebuilt. We had 2 high schools. The idiot lying witch who is our superintendent said if the taxpayers passed a levy 4 yrs ago, they'd remodel one HS that is beloved and over 100 yrs old and rebuild the other one. As soon as the levy was passed, they said they are closing down the old one and they are building a Mega HS with 5000 students. I have written to the paper, went on public TV and met this woman but these people could care less about the little people or the kids. As a homeowner, i can barely make my bills and they are now, 4 yrs later, saying they need another levy. BS. Total BS.
My son has had quite a few terrible teachers.....i can not wait to get him out of this school system. Your entry is awesome.
lj

fisherkristina said...

This is so very frightening.

Krissy
http://journals.aol.com/fisherkristina/SometimesIThink

gravydogg55 said...

  THANKS FOR YOUR COMMENT ON MY AOL JOURNAL.  I HOPE YOU READ SOME OF THE ARCHIVES.
       THIS ENTRY OF YOURS COULD DO BE SO ENLIGHTENING TO  MANY UNCONCERNED PEOPLE IF THERE WAS SOME WAY TO GET THEIR ATTENTION.
     SO MANY DO NOT EVEN BOTHER TO VOTE. IF THIS NATION IS TO SURVIVE THIS PATHETIC SLUMP WE ARE IN, THE HOPES IS IN GETTING MORE LAWMAKERS ELECTED THAT ARE CAPABLE OF USING PRACTICLE COMMON SENSE AND PROMOTING EFFECIENT ELEMENTARY EDUCATION.
  CHILDREN CERTAINLY CAN LEARN THOUGH THE TEACHER NEEDS TO BE MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE THAN THE CHILD. SUCH A WASTE OF OPPORTUNITY FOR CHILDREN TO SPEND TIME IN CLASSROOMS WHERE THERE IS LITTLE GUIDANCE SKILL.
  I WILL TRY TO ACCESS YOUR JOURNAL AND WAS NOT SUCCESSFUL THE FIRST TRY. PLEASE E-MAIL YOUR JOURNAL ADDRESS TO : GRAVYDOGG55.     sam