"Alex W." yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
>"Bob LeChevalier" lojban.org> wrote in message
>> "Alex W." yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
>>>> For each subject and each grade and maybe each part of each grade
>>>> (which effectively makes a curriculum), since the families of a kid
>>>> might move in any given year, even in the middle of the year (there
>>>> are poor and migrant families in the US where a kid might change
>>>> addresses and hence schools every month - if every school is learning
>>>> something different (often from different textbooks), the
>>>> discontinuity means that they don't learn a lot.
>>>So parents have to make an extra effort.
>> That's nice. But if they don't ...?
>> The system is NOT designed for the ideal normal student in a perfectly
>> competent parent in a two-parent family. It is designed to handle ALL
>> students, and all degrees of parental competence and responsibility.
>This in itself mandates local flexibility. A rural or ghetto school will
>have to go at a slower speed than a school serving an academic or
>middle-class nneighbourhood, ditto areas with high numbers of immigrants
>versus communities with low immigration.
They aren't allowed to: "No Child Left Behind" They all have to get
to same the ending point in time for the state tests.
If all standards were determined locally, (and all schools were fully
funded locally), that might be plausible. But the states determine
uniform standards, and in most locales, a large percentage of funding
comes from the states and the feds (and the courts have generally
rules against inequities in funding across a state, making states
increase their involvement in funding.
>>>it should not be impossible to arrange for remedial schooling where
>> Parents usually won't make the extra effort, probably have no clue HOW
>> to arrange it, even if they are able to find out that such remedial
>> schooling is needed (I needed remedial education in college, and >I<
>> didn't realize it until maybe a year after I finished the course. My
>> parents had very little idea what I was studying in school after about
>> 7th grade.
>I would imagine that the school can provide for tutoring or remedial
Such things are made available to all, if there is funding. If money
is short, it doesn't happen. Unless the kid is classified as special
In general, the schools with lots of poor kids simply don't have the
resources. They need more money than most schools, usually have less
money, tend to attract newer, less-skilled teachers.
>or at least be able to recommend suitable educators.
I was an involved parent, and I did send my kids to recommended
outside tutoring. $35 and hour was the going rate around here for an
outside tutor. Most parents below the median income can't afford it,
and probably some above the median income can't either.
>clueless parents, a visit to their kid's teachers should enlighten them (if
>the grades themselves don't).
You are presuming that the parents visit the teachers. As I said,
many parents don't make any extra effort. They are too busy putting
food on the table.
>Some responsibility falls on the schools
>themselves who should have protocols in place to keep a special eye on new
>kids from out of state.
I have not heard that they do (or that they have any responsibility
to). There is no special category for "relocated student". Sometimes,
there will be special investigations of the matter. A couple of years
ago, they turned up a kid who changed schools 8 times in one school
year. The family had no permanent housing. The schools cannot solve
>> Many people do it successfully, and many people fail.
>> Our system these days has the impossible ideal of "No Child Left
>> Behind" regardless of parental involvement, student cooperation, or
>> anything else outside of the school employees who bear full
>> responsibility for somehow getting an ever increasing percentage of
>> their students to pass the state tests.
>And how do you see this state of affairs improved under a nationwide
I didn't say that it would necessarily. But for purposes of
international competition, it would improve, because then the goals
could be more or less aligned with the international tests.
I am not saying this is a good idea. I don't think that the
international testing is all that important. But it gets used to damn
the education system a lot.
>Don't you think the pressure to proceed at the pace of the slowest immigrant kid
I think that there would be less pressure of that sort with a national
standard. People who would write national standards wouldn't have
local pressures, but would probably have increasing pressures to match
>>>However, I also see the risks. Impose such a system, and the temptation
>>>political interference will be almost impossible to resist.
>> Of course. But there is political interference anyway, it's just
>> local and piecemeal. And it is easier (and cheaper) to politically
>> interfere at the local level than at the state level, and at the state
>> level than at the national level.
>Which also works in reverse: it is equally easier to resist such
No it isn't. Money talks, and it takes less money to talk locally
than to talk nationally. Taking over a local school board might cost
a few hundred thousand dollars. Shifting Congress by more than a
couple dozen seats takes hundreds of millions, and has a smaller
effect. (The Republicans campaigned for many years on eliminating
that national level department of education. They've had control of
the White House for most of the last 30 years, and they had control of
Congress and the White House for a few of those years. The Department
was never in the slightest danger, and didn't even have significant
It is MUCH harder to make a change in national policy than in local
>>>Instead of a
>>>whole array of local, state and federal authorities, lobbyists will be
>>>able to concentrate on one agency only.
>> On the other hand, the cost of influencing that agency is much higher
>> than influencing a local school board.
>I'm not sure that will be a concern to the truly motivated such as the
>Religious Right who have the manpower, the funding and the sheer
>determination to mount such a campaign.
Nationally they have the manpower, and under some leadership the
determination (but it has to be national leadership to be a national
force) but you can see by the Republican nominee that this doesn't
turn into power. The reason is that they have stronger power in Bible
Belt states and weaker power in others. I don't think that they have
any special funding power.
>>>Can you see the battles over sex.ed. or
>>>evolution -- with the education of the whole nation in the balance?
>> It was easier to get elected to the Kansas school board and change the
>> Kansas State education standards to promote creationism, than it would
>> be to get elected to a national school board that would have to
>> approve changes in national standards.
>> (Note that I am not necessarily in favor of this - I just think that
>> it is the easiest way to beat the international comparison bugaboo.)
>Bugaboo is right.
>A much better comparison is, IMHO, between state and private education.
What's to compare? Some private education is better in some ways than
some public schools. Most are more or less the same, but probably a
little more focused because they choose their customers, who tend to
be more uniform in the traits important to the school management. If
they do better, it is often because they demand parental involvement,
sometimes by explicit requirement, but always because the parents are
making a huge financial expenditure.
And many private schools actually do worse because they in fact DON'T
have any real educational standards, but are havens for parents who
don't want their kids associating with THEM (those others who are
different in some undesirable trait, usually race or income or
>> The result of a lack of national standards has been the often decried
>> textbook bloat, as textbooks have swollen to 800 or 1000 pages in
>> order to maximize the market for the publishers, half of which is
>> irrelevant or confusing to the students because the local course
>> doesn't include that material in that order. Only those who adopt
>> California or Texas standards can get away with skinnier textbooks
>> written specifically for the standards.
>> And of course because the books are so expensive and weigh 10 pounds
>> apiece, the schools can't let the kids take the textbook home, which
>> skews homework policies.
>That is a procurement issue, and one which is eminently amenable to
>high-tech solutions. Homework, coursework and resources could be made
>available over the internet (on dedicated sites) or via email, and new
>publishing technologies mean that paper textbooks can be printed on-demand
>at a marginal extra cost.
The cost of textbooks is determined by the publishers. Printing costs
are relevant, but not greatly so. They have no motivation to provide
cheap textbooks if they can make more money on more expensive ones.
The Internet is only useful if EVERY student without exception has a
computer and internet access at home, and we aren't anywhere near that
status especially in the areas that have the most problems.
>>>still, a uniform approach quite often turns out to mean a compromise
>>>solution that lowers standards; at least, that's the way it has gone in
>> The increasing political demand for more and more students to attend
>> college (and therefore have the needed piece of paper to earn a decent
>> living) regardless of their interests and aptitudes is going to do
>> that in any case.
>The solution to that would be more diversification, not less, e.g. streaming
>into vocational and technical training with formal qualifications at the
That might be the solution, but the political will and the cost
investment stand in the way.
>Here, the German model springs to mind which has a very
>well-established system of schooling vaguely reminiscent of the old guilds,
>from apprentice to journeyman to master craftsman. The result is an
>incredibly high standard of workmanship throughout an industry, a high
>scoial regard for such professions and very decent money at the end of the
I've always thought of the traditional British system as having some
of those features. Forgive me if I mangle things, but I understand
that there are A-level students and O-level students, and many of the
latter leave school earlier and enter a trade or vocational training.
The students who get lots of A-levels are the ones who go to college.
It fails and the trend to go towards the American model increases as
the desire to have more kids go to college increases. At least the
British system does not make the decision before O-levels are taken,
which is relatively late in the student's education.
But the German system forces kids into one category or the other at a
rather early age, when aptitudes and interests aren't well known. And
it probably has a tendency to promote discrimination - the kids of a
working class parent tend to end up in the vocations, while the kids
of an academic tend to end up in the academic schools. When you mix
in race and immigration issues, that turns into an apartheid situation
(I wonder how many Turkish immigrants in Germany go to the academic
schools - probably very few).
If there were clear pathways to move from one track to the other
later, possibly at the expense of an extra year or even two years of
state-funded education to correct any gaps, then a two-track system
would be more palatable. I think it would be possible to sell the
concept of taking extra years of education to meet special needs,
because in fact that is what happens, when kids are held back a year.
(I also believe that the Germans have a more centrally-planned
education system. The US could not go to a new system like the
Germans WITHOUT nationalized education, since the states control
education, and each does things differently.
>> That is the problem with market solutions. The highest profit tends
>> to derive from catering to the lowest common denominator, because that
>> maximizes the market size.
>Only if you're into the mass market. The lowest common denominator matters
>less the farther up the value-added ladder you climb.
If the public is paying the bill, then everyone gets the same money.
"Climbing that value-added ladder" means investing more parental
money, and the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
>Anyway, I am sure the parents in such communities are quite keen to see
>their kids get ahead in life; what they may insist on is a syllabus which
>takes into account local cultural peculiarities to some degree. This need
>not compromise competitiveness but could cause friction.
In a national curriculum, local cultural peculiarities don't have to
be taken into account. The communities may be less happy, but the
bottom line is that they don't have the political clout. (In reality,
I suspect that each school would probably make minor adaptation of a
national curriculum to such local interests even with central control
and mandatory curriculum)
>> Sometimes. But pit a big-bucks national marketing company against a
>> group of relatively ignorant locals, and you'll get all sorts of new
>> programs adopted (which then fail and get replaced by the next
>> marketing gimmick).
>Which also applies to any new teaching method that comes along, I'm afraid.
Therefore, national level control is inherently more conservative,
because it is harder to sell the cost of converting to a new teaching
>> Or we need to adopt goals for education that don't require such
>> standards. Get rid of these international comparison tests, except
>> insofar as they may be used to identify and crosspollinate ideas
>> between the different educational communities. Accept that we will
>> NOT be "number one" because we are unwilling to adopt the
>> international standard curriculum implied by the test design as our
>That will not work. Employers need something by which to judge the level of
>education and knowledge of the job applicant, and that includes
Employers look at individual records. The records of the
international testing are heavily statistical, and do not attach to
And in deciding whether to hire a native vs an immigrant, I suspect
that visa policy and salary expectations play a lot larger factor than
qualifications. This is especially true when it is said that in
skilled professions, the first year tends to be a net loss for a
company while the new hire learns the specifics of the company and the
job. Qualifications don't matter nearly as much as long as the worker
has the will to learn, and some minimum competence in learning skills.
Bob LeChevalier - artificial linguist; genealogist
Lojban language www.lojban.org