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Race to Nowhere - Page 2

post #21 of 34


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mom2ponygirl View Post




I agree with this to a certain degree. I think AP classes are great for kids who need/want them. The push for all high school kids to take AP is what bothers me. It should be okay for a kid to take high school classes in high school. They should be high school classes of sufficient quality that a kid is still prepared to go to college if they so choose.

 

I recently had an acquaintance quit her job at a charter school teaching AP English. This school had a rule that all seniors had to take AP English. Unfortunately, half of them were unprepared for an intro level university class and were failing. The school administration wanted the teacher to make the class easier. She refused if they were still going to call it AP. Her argument was that if you call it AP you need to keep it at that level. It should be okay for kids to take another english class their senior year if they weren't yet ready for AP. Or, she said we need to just call it 12th grade English. The admin refused so she quit. I have to say I rather respected her choice. :-)

 

 



One major issue with high schools, they are not preparing kids for college. Kids are going to college and having to take remedial courses to get them up to the level they need to be.

 

I think this is a difficult issue without one solution.

 

1. One is parents, to many parents make excuses and expect way to little from their child. Your child has ADHD - it makes things harder don't say they can't figure out how they can. Many parents find excuses to not being able to read or take active involvement, and their child's behavior. I have seen kids behavior drastically change when the parents put their foot down. I have wonder how many discipline problems in the classroom would be solved if the parents were told the child can return when they could act right (My step-mom teaches k-2nd, she has one child that called her a stupid whore cracker, multiple times. That comes from the home and should not be a problem of the school. Yes, I think the school has a right to dump the child back onto the parents. In some cases. She went through h*%% to get the child removed from her classroom. She could no longer emotionally deal with child and the mom. In 24 years of teaching that particular child was the only child she could not fell she could work with or through the situation.)

 

2. One is the teachers, bad teachers need to be let go. I also think how we train teacher's to teach fails to give them the skill they need. Team teaching and a longer student teacher status paring up with an older teacher would help. I do think that there are many teachers that have no clue on how to handle children's natural behaviors - it becomes easier to label than deal. Many teachers pick the wrong battles to fight. Wiggle butts in chairs do not necessarily mean a bad student but different teaching skills and sometimes ignoring. Also, in early years multi-age group were kids move forward based on ability not age. The show competency in set skill they move to next level. If there is no or slow progression intervention. I do feel teachers are often set up to fail.

 

3. Policy makers, many times school policy setters also are counterproductive and inhibiting to teacher to do their job. I do agree with a national curriculum, like "What your X grader should know, but the teacher needs to find the best way to make it work with in the classroom. Policies often make teachers social workers and everything other than teachers. Policies often make it impossible to get kids and teachers the help they need. And yes, sometimes the help they need is to be told - bring your child back when they can act right.

 

I started homeschooling after an incompetent kindergarten teacher of 20 years missed that my son had dysgraphia. She should not have missed that he could not hold a picture.  Then he did one month of first grade -- policy had 3 kindergarten classes going into.  Then they tried to fix it by having a certified 6th grade teacher teach 1st because she held the right certificate.  She was a great 6th grade teacher not a good first grade teacher (but that is not her fault, but a policy and training issue that could have been solved with team teaching).  

 

Nobody wants to take blame, and there is not one place to blame everyone is at fault for our issues.  And not a one single fix.  


Edited by Marsupialmom - 1/12/11 at 9:51am
post #22 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marsupialmom View Post
One major issue with high schools, they are not preparing kids for college. Kids are going to college and having to take remedial courses to get them up to the level they need to be.

 

Everyone doesn't belong in college, and that's something that isn't said often either. The percentages of people going to college now are higher than in the past. My university was listed as "highly selective" when I applied. I don't know if it still is, but I do know that the student population has grown significantly. There cannot be that many more students who are qualified to be there (and want to pay the outrageous tuition, which also has increased significantly). In fact, I know it's not the case as many of my old professors are FB friends and complain about the increasing lack of ability in their students.
 

post #23 of 34

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 

post #24 of 34

I'm editing because I said Finland when I was thinking Sweden.


I think it depends on who you talk too as to how well "one size fits all" works. The major critisisms I've heard about Sweden in particular is that they offer nothing in reguards to gifted education.... that accelerated children are often made to feel bad for wanting more academics at a faster pace. I've also read that while Sweden does have the lowest rate of learning disabilities, they also don't acknowledge them period.

 

Don't get me wrong. I see lots of benefits for the typical kid in this system but the small percent above and below typical suffer.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 

post #25 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, 


I agree with a lot of what you've written, except that Finland doesn't have a "one-size fits all" system, from what I've read. Here's a quote: 

 

But here's what I think is the key point, from the WSJ and my other reading: The education culture in Finland is one of excellence and intense individualization. Finnish teachers are expected to customize lessons for students. As the WSJ quotes one education expert saying, "In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs." And they are good entrepreneurs. In Finland, teachers are trained extensively. They must have master's degrees, and 40 people apply for every job.

 

It suggests that the Finnish system doesn't implement a cookie-cutter approach, but rather uses innovative methods with a great deal of differentiation for individual students. Even though there may not be separate classes for remedial students and gifted classes (streaming), within a classroom students receive differentiated instruction. 

 

The comments from Finns to that blog post are very interesting, particularly the description of being allowed a lot of freedom, self-paced learning and pursuit self-directed interests.  

 

I also read recently that Finland educational authorities are becoming concerned about the lack of "official" programming for gifted students. Having developed one of the best educational systems in the world, they want to continue improving. One issue is whether gifted students are being neglected and if they couldn't be doing even better. Unfortunately, I couldn't find that reference. 

 

 

ETA: I see Jane91 was actually quoting Anechka from an earlier post, and so the quote above should be attributed to Anechka.  I didn't bother to reply to that post because I think my view of education differs so fundamentally that it would be like speaking a different language. I'll just respond now to Anechka that some people believe that children are empty vessels to be filled up with a defined amount of information. Teachers and schools are merely tools used to transmit that information. While I can agree that there is a core knowledge base that is useful (and perhaps optimal) for an individual to possess, I think true education also develops learning and life skills - logic, analysis and critical thinking, collaborative work, etc. that are inherent but require nurturing.  

 

If you believe in the "empty vessel" theory, then it's understandable why you would believe that there should be a single curriculum, a simple massive transfer of data downloaded into a child and no concerns about allowing any "alternative" pedagogical methods that foster those other learning and life skills. Personally, I think core knowledge changes as the world changes and even as individuals move from one location to another. I think it's short-sighted to limit a child's learning to a simple data download and neglect their true education. For those reasons, I disagree with what Anechka has written.     

post #26 of 34

Another book that should be on the reading list for parents concerned with the crazy push of highschool is:

 

"Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges" by Loren Pope

 

This book highlights colleges that are fairly easy to get into, but produce excellent results. A couple of the schools highlighted have 100% acceptance rate into medical schools, but they take B students. Some don't use SAT scores for admissions because they've found no link between SAT scores and success in college, and some produce Rhodes Scholars, Fullbright winners and future PhD candidates at higher rates than big name schools, which are harder to get into.

 

I think just reading this book would help most parents relax.

 

(and some of these school don't accept AP credit.)

post #27 of 34
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jane91 View Post

 "One size fits all" principle actually works in Finland, South Korea  and my home country - countries with excellent public education programs."

 

Let's take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of Finland: 

 

The entire population is @5,000,000.  Only 2.5 percent of the population are foreign citizens.  Its "indigenous" people are limited to @7,000 people of Sami heritage.  The largest ethnic group after Finnish speaking Finns (92% of the population) are Swedish speaking Finns. 

 

Let's also take a peek at the ethnic and cultural diversity of South Korea:

 

Per Wikipedia:  "South Korea is ethnically one of the most homogeneous societies in the world with more than 99 per cent of inhabitants having Korean ethnicity"" 

 

Then let's give a little thought to the United States:

 

The United States is the third most populous country in the world.  In 2009 1.1 million legal immigrants (the equivalent of ONE FIFTH the population of Finland) were granted residence.  Estimates of illegal immigrant populations vary (wikipedia puts the number at 11.2 million) and also per Wikipedia, about 31 (THIRTY ONE!) ethnic groups have membership of more than 1,000,000 persons. 

 

Wonder why we can't just import what works in Finland and South Korea?

 

All the hand-wringing aside, my understanding is that kids of white and asian heritage are competing and testing on an equivalent level with the best of the world.

 

Our issue is with disadvantaged minorities and immigrant populations (which for all intents and purposes don't exist in Finland or South Korea.)

 

clap.gif
 

post #28 of 34

I would also put out there that, in addition to not having the ethnically homogenous population that some of the countries mentioned do, we also don't have as much of an established social safety net. I remember traveling to France in college and staying in a hostel in Paris. A woman who was in the hostel with us was homeless, and the government gave her assistance to be there.

 

Contrast this to the students I taught in NYC who were living in cars. Even where I teach now, in a "solidly middle class" suburban high school, we have issues of extreme poverty. One of my colleagues went to a student's house to do home instruction only to find that there was no heat in the house...in January in the Northeast. I had a favorite student a couple of years ago who was taken out of her home because Mom decided to pay boyfriend's bail instead of the water bill. And, I have three former students, a boy and two girls, who live in a family who rations food based on gender: the boys just don't get fed nearly as often as the girls do. Possibly as a result, the girls are relatively successful (the oldest graduated and attended beauty school, the middle is a senior on track to graduate with decent grades) while the son is in a non-mainstreamed special education program, gets in fights, has major truancy issues, and has an assigned aide follow him when he is in the hallway because he can't be trusted to not walk out of school. 

 

Remember Maslow's hierarchy of needs. How can we expect children to perform at school at even a marginally level when they are concerned with whether or not they'll be eating that day?

post #29 of 34

My HS had AP classes and I took them all.  This was great b/c I entered college with 1 full year of credit and was able to get right into the interesting things.  It would have been even better if all the subjects were ability grouped, b/c by the time I got to HS, I was so thoroughly bored by going so slowly that I had pretty much checked out mentally and had a bad attitude towards school.  It was a waste, by and large.

post #30 of 34

I agree with this. Also, there should be more time spent in nature & w/ the arts.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post


I am one of those who read your OP but didn't comment because I haven't seen the film. I'll bite now, though, since you've described the issues a little. I think the problem hasn't been accurately identified and I think some of the solutions, like eliminating ability grouping and limiting opportunities for advanced studies, are misguided at best and horribly destructive to a healthy learning environment at worst. There are many people complaining about anti-intellectual attitudes, poor standards in education, absence of challenging opportunities, and the resulting lack of motivation in students today. 

 

The real problem is that the education system needs to allow more self-directed learning for all students, rather than the "one-size-fits-all" approach. Students should be given greater opportunity for self-paced studies, and that includes subject acceleration if they are capable and want to try it. It also includes a "de-celeration", if you will, to allow a longer period to learn a subject if they are struggling. Offer multi-age classrooms. Provide wider opportunities for experiential education and inter-disciplinary studies, rather than the typical teacher-led lecture format and independent subject silos (i.e. math, science, history, literature, geography taught separately and never-the-twain-shall-meet) that are still all too prevalent. Schools should encourage independent study programs, and with their communities create the infrastructure for internships and co-op placements and guest teaching from experts in the community. There should be more emphasis on collaborative learning with other students in group settings using lots of support and coaching and guidance from teacher-mentors. And especially, encourage students to pursue and develop their own interests in various subjects. There are all sorts of exciting, engaging ways to provide a rich learning experience that makes the apparent focus on simply whether to provide AP classes incredibly discouraging. 

 

The problem isn't the concept of ability-grouping and advanced studies. High ability students who want to work at a faster pace or explore a topic in greater depth or breadth should not be denied that opportunity. They should not have to sit in a class, doodling and catching up on their sleep, while the teacher works with the majority of students who are taking longer to work through a subject. That's a recipe for disaster. Why shouldn't a 14 y.o., who is capable and who wants to, take an AP class in a subject s/he wants to learn? I'm curious about the "research" cited about the lack of benefits of ability grouping. It sounds like the kind of biased, badly conducted and poorly interpreted "research" used all the time to undermine gifted programs.  

 

So the question isn't whether to allow acceleration and provide AP classes. Heck, yes, go ahead, those learning opportunities are essential for some students to keep them motivated and engaged in school. But also provide MORE - expand on the opportunities, create new learning pathways, look outside the traditional classroom. Above all else, encourage student-led, self-directed learning. 

 

There are a lot of reforms that are necessary in traditional formal education. Pointing the finger at parents and students for ills in the system seems like victim-blaming though. Most parents and students want a solid education and a rich, satisfying learning environment. Unfortunately, these desires are expressed as pressure to perform and succeed on a hyper-advanced path, thanks to the focus on standardized test results and the single-track must-go-to-college-immediately-after-high-school attitude that is so prevalent today. Focusing on one aspect of reforming the system is misguided though, and not likely to achieve good results. 

 

 

post #31 of 34

Annie, my sister lives in Fairfax Co, and her high achieving kids have been in the public schools there. Her son went to Thomas Jefferson, named as the top high school in the country a couple of years ago by US News and World Report. They're very bright, athletic kids, but my niece and my sister have been really concerned about colleges. My sister reports that because there are so many high achieving students in their area colleges don't want to take them all. The colleges want to diversify their student body and even if there are x number of qualified Fairfax county students a college doesn't want to take all of them. They want to have students from other areas, too. I think this adds to the pressure to get into the right college that The Race To Nowhere portrays.

 

I live in a different area, but the school situation is similar in many ways. I live in a college town with a highly educated population and a well regarded public school system. The word on the street is, that it's harder for kids from our local public schools to get into the local university than kids from other less high-achieving school systems in the state. The university is a state school and they want to have kids from all across the state, as well as out of state. They want to balance their student body as much as they can, so there could be a better chance for a kid from a more rural county with good grades—say As & Bs, plus decent SAT scores—to get into the university than a kid with the same or better grades from our local public schools. It's kinda crazy, but that's what I've been told.

 

So, there's a drawback to being in a good district, but that doesn't mean parents don't want their kids to go to good high schools they just want them to do even better so they can be at the top of the best high school, so then they can get in the college of their choice.

 

We've opted out of all that so far. My kids go to a private project-based school just because my dd1 needed a smaller environment.


Edited by beanma - 1/31/11 at 4:00pm
post #32 of 34
Quote:

Originally Posted by beanma View Post

 

My sister reports that because there are so many high achieving students in their area colleges don't want to take them all. The colleges want to diversify their student body and even if there are x number of qualified Fairfax county students a college doesn't want to take all of them. They want to have students from other areas, too. I think this adds to the pressure to get into the right college that The Race To Nowhere portrays.


 


 

You might send her a copy of "college that change lives."  There are lots of wonderful little colleges out there that are fairly easy to get into. What she is saying keeps getting repeated,  but it's a myth.

 

I'm sure that if a student/parent feels that only 1 college is the right college, it must feel very intense and crazed, but there are really a lot of options. Lots and lots of options. The whole "right college" thing is such a limited way of thinking.

post #33 of 34

No, I don't think it's a myth that colleges won't take but a certain percentage of their student population from a given high school or school district. There are only so many places at MIT or Harvard or UVa or wherever and they're not going to fill up their freshman class with kids from Fairfax County when there are 94 other counties worth of kids in the state of Virginia.

 

Now, do they have to go to MIT or Harvard or even UVa — no, and none of those places is where my nephew ended up going, but many of his classmates were hoping to go and did go to those schools.  When my nephew was looking at schools, though, he was interested in biomedical engineering and you're just not going to get that at any old community college.

 

Here's a link to an article about the phenomenon -- http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/article.asp?article=325186&paper=62&cat=104 . They talk about a valedictorian in Northern Va who was flat-out rejected by UVa. A lot of parents, me included, hope their kids will be able to go to a state school since out-of-state and private school tuition is so high. It'll be a real stretch if we have to pay $46,000+ for 8 years (2 kids) or let our kids get saddled with debt. In-state, right now, at our local University would be $19,000 for us although I'm sure it will be higher by the time my kids are college age, and gosh that sounds like a lot of money.

 

Going to college isn't for everyone and I'd like to think  I could be fine with it if my kids didn't want to, but I'd want them to be able to go and to be able to go to a good school if they wanted to. UVa is a good school, but it's not Harvard and it is a state school and I think a school like that should be the kind of school that most of us strive for our kids to go to. It's not Ivy League, y'know? The fact remains, that a kid from SW Va who has grades identical or worse than a kid from NoVa is probably more likely to get in. It's a weird situation.

 

And I would be totally fine with my kids going to a smaller liberal arts college that is less expensive, but a lot of the smaller colleges are private and aren't any cheaper. Some are, but some aren't. I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

post #34 of 34

Well said Chamomile Girl -- great points

 

I wonder if there are 2 concerns here with the hyper-accelerated learning trend

1. is it good for educating children (does it work)

2. even if it does work does it have corollary issues of causing stress/overemphasis on scholastic achievement/ harm to the child?

 

I'd say I'm a product of such education-- I remember being "tracked" in high school and the college track meant AP classes and the like. It was important for my education. My classes include the group learning, open ended projects, and the like. I loved it and did well and pursued the achievement and the attention it brought. And I did start to self-identify as the sum of my learning accomplishments.

 

That, to me, is the danger. I do think at least some of these educational trends toward ability grouping are necessary and best for our educational system. But in the application, the danger may lie in how kids are constructing their self awareness in response to this. An adult can see with a wider perspective that success and happiness in life are not dependent on a high school GPA of a certain caliber. There is no perfect college for achieving the perfect career that creates happiness. If anything, variety, change, messing up and trying a different direction are part of growing up and finding the personal path.

 

Many students find that their top tier education gave them plenty of knowledge and skills but they still can't find a job in their field.  -- my mom has a joke I won't get right about how the A students end up professors, the C students are the workers, and the B students rule the world because they know how to work hard to get the grade and work well with others. Totally an oversimplification but the idea that "book learning" will translate to accomplishment and happiness is to me the danger. I don't want my kids to think that finding the right answers or being at the top of the class means that everything in life will follow that pattern. I want my kids to maximize their learning potential in away that helps them maximize their potential to be functional, empathetic, involved, loving (and lovable) members of society. I think all that can happen with ability grouped classrooms and keeping a focus on college, but there still has to be room for and an emphasis on other aspects of educating the whole person -- maybe that part is just my job at home -- but it's one of those things where it sure helps if the school system is helping and not hindering me.

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