What do you think of the US education system? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-21-2012, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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What's your experience with it? Are you a parent, a teacher, a staff member, an advocate, a product of the system, etc?

What changes would you like to see made, and how do you think those changes need to come about?

Any other thoughts? 
 

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#2 of 6 Old 11-23-2012, 08:16 AM
 
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I'm Canadian. My only experience is as an outside observer. This article really resonates for me. I think that when you put schools in competition with each other you set up a situation where the strong and aggressive survive and flourish. Which is precisely what education is not about: it's about raising up the weak, poor and disempowered ... our children, even the unfortunate ones whose parents cannot afford to live in "good" districts, who cannot spend the time, money and energy to compete for spaces in "good" schools. Furthermore, all the emphasis on measuring petty aspects of performance is at odds with the sort of big-picture innovation, creativity and responsiveness to individual and community needs that creates a truly well-educated citizenry. 

 

We're not above some of this stupidity in Canada, but I think that the American education system, with its vastly differential funding system, takes it to a whole other level. 

 

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#3 of 6 Old 11-23-2012, 09:29 PM
 
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Hmmm, we've had superior experiences and grossly inferior experiences. Our local district K-8 district has been fantastic for my kids. They've been able to offer a truly individualized and flexible education rich with art, music (both band and orchestra), theatre, dance, foreign languages, robotics, pre-engineering programs, sports... really anything parents said they want, we manage to get. Great use of technology but also not a district to follow curriculum trends. It's very traditional in a lot of ways. We are a small district in a middle/lower middle class region but our district manages to function with a surplus budget despite being one to the highest paying districts in the county. Heavy community involvement and smart use of grants and resources make this happen. We have "fine" test scores but our heavy ESL population and the fact that we have absorbed high numbers of our neighbors' learning disabled kids brings overall scores down but not the quality of education.

 

We've experienced being in one of the largest districts in the States (15 minutes away.) We were in an audition based performing arts magnet school in an impoverished area. Students were bussed  in from all over the county. This campus had the highest gifted rate in the county (54 percent.) It's also considered the safest campus in the county. However, poor quality teachers, extremely low morale, horrid academics (but strong test scores.) Seriously, honors level English classes doing work my DD was getting in 4th grade. Parents are talked down to (I got phone messages a couple times a month telling me how to dress my child for the weather) if they are talked to at all. This is one of the distrlct's "crown jewels."  The district itself is riddled with corruption, terrible mass educational mandates and dire financial straits.

 

Out 3rd experience is in an fantastic early college program financed by an "eh" high school district. My kid is thriving in the program but there isn't another program in the district I'd put my kids in.

 

So, I've seen American schools at their best and their not so great.... though really, I expect there are FAR worse. Honestly, after experiencing the magnet, I understand why poverty is such a terrible cycle. Kids in poor areas as a whole are not getting a good education. I'm not even sure they are getting a basic one. It was a real shock to me as a parent to experience and it made me sad.

 

How do I feel about American schools? Well, it's complicated. Some are doing great work. Some should be shut down. I will say that I think it's a mistake to not consider our culture when discussing any failure in the system as a whole. 


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#4 of 6 Old 01-09-2013, 12:27 PM
 
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There is no US education system. Education is within the jurisdiction of the states and run by very decentralized districts. There are no national standards. There is no national curriculum. Even the age at which you can start school differs from one state to another. And quality of schools of course vastly differs even from one side of a city to another.


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#5 of 6 Old 01-09-2013, 05:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by RomanGoddess View Post

There is no US education system. Education is within the jurisdiction of the states and run by very decentralized districts. There are no national standards. There is no national curriculum. Even the age at which you can start school differs from one state to another. And quality of schools of course vastly differs even from one side of a city to another.

 

I don't disagree that there are huge differences from school to school, district to district, and state to state. On the other hand, there are some general trends throughout the US that are perhaps best appreciated from an outside perspective, from a nation that maybe doesn't follow those same trends. In the US, school typically starts with Kindergarten at age 5 and lasts until the completion of 12th grade at age 18. There is considerable emphasis on the early achievement of tangible academic skills like early literacy skills and early math skills. School in the US is usually compulsory until 16. In general there is a lot of division into sub-subjects (history, civics and geography rather than social studies, algebra, trig and geometry rather than maths). School days are long compared to many other western nations, but shorter than eastern nations. There tends to be a lot of focus on measurable outcomes like standardized tests, standardized exams, grades and honor rolls and the like. There tends to be a lot of homework, and the homework tends to be (from my Canadian perspective) fairly micro-managed. 

 

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#6 of 6 Old 01-11-2013, 09:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

I don't disagree that there are huge differences from school to school, district to district, and state to state. On the other hand, there are some general trends throughout the US that are perhaps best appreciated from an outside perspective, from a nation that maybe doesn't follow those same trends. In the US, school typically starts with Kindergarten at age 5 and lasts until the completion of 12th grade at age 18. There is considerable emphasis on the early achievement of tangible academic skills like early literacy skills and early math skills. School in the US is usually compulsory until 16. In general there is a lot of division into sub-subjects (history, civics and geography rather than social studies, algebra, trig and geometry rather than maths). School days are long compared to many other western nations, but shorter than eastern nations. There tends to be a lot of focus on measurable outcomes like standardized tests, standardized exams, grades and honor rolls and the like. There tends to be a lot of homework, and the homework tends to be (from my Canadian perspective) fairly micro-managed. 

 

Miranda

Each state is different, plus private schools and homeschoolers do not have to follow all the rules that apply to public schools.   There are National Standards for many content areas, but schools are not a requirement to meet National Standards.  The state I am in is the only one where the school board of the individual public school sets the curriculum.  Most states have their own curriculum; although many are similar, they are not necessarily the same across the board.  Larger states like TX and CA set the tone for text books because they have some of the largest school districts, and therefore buy the most books. Funding can be tied to property taxes, so there are disparities between districts.

 

IL had a teachers' strike in Chicago at the beginning of  this school year.  One of the reasons for striking was because the schools want to extend the hours without paying the teachers more.  Chicago's schools have one of the shortest school day.

 

My kids have not had much homework.  Ds really just started getting daily math homework in 6th grade with his 1/2 hour reading each night, which he has had since elementary.  Other 6th grade teachers at ds's school do not give homework each night.  Ds just got lucky with his teacher (I suppose he might not feel that way). 

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