How to Fix Our Public Schools? 12-17-13

John Kennedy, Jr. Jackie, Caroline and Ted Kennedy at Phillips Andover Academy Graduaton
John Kennedy, Jr. Jackie, Caroline and Ted Kennedy at Phillips Andover Academy Graduaton
Phillips Andover Academy
Phillips Andover Academy
Seminar Phillips Exeter Academy
Seminar Phillips Exeter Academy
Abandoned Detroit Public School
Abandoned Detroit Public School

IMPROVING PUBLIC SCHOOLS

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO IMPROVE PUBLIC SCHOOLS?

Just about everyone agrees that there is a need to improve public schools, but there is no consensus on what should be done. In some districts top-down reforms are using high stakes tests to determine which schools should be closed and which teachers fired.

Charter schools are supplanting public schools and public school teachers in a number of failing urban districts such as Detroit, with mixed results. Public school teacher contracts are being re-negotiated or invalidated along with teachers’ collective bargaining rights. Not surprisingly, some administrators and teachers have been caught doctoring student achievement test results in order to avoid school closures, teacher firings and losses of funds.Teacher merit or performance pay and charter schools are being offered as panaceas for improving public schools.

There is no mystery about why many inner city and other public schools aren’t performing as well as they should. All one must do is compare them with the best private schools where the headmasters or principals and teachers aren’t subject to the stultifying control of huge, centralized, hierarchical bureaucracies of many inner city school systems.

Private schools and class sizes are smaller. [For example at the Groton School in Massachusetts where the Roosevelts studied, total enrollment is 372, grades 8-12; the average class size is 13; the teacher:student ratio is 1:5; and classes are offered weekly on Saturdays and Sundays.]

There are no shortages of books or materials in successful private schools.

Students in private schools, for the most part, come from suburban upper or middle class families many of whom provide them with an enriched intellectual environment almost from the time they are born—plenty of books, good health care, pre-schools, summer programs and parental encouragement to excel.

When a student is not performing, appropriate attention and resources are devoted to the problem. Fewer students “fall through the cracks” than in inner city schools where many students come from much less nourishing family and community environments.

Judging inner-city public school teachers solely or primarily on the basis of test scores is likely to be misleading and unfair because many factors beyond a teacher's control affect learning and test scores. Used properly, student achievement test score standards as one measure for evaluating teacher and school performance may contribute to improving school and teacher performance, but more important are specific changes in the structure and process which must be accomplished in order to meet higher standards.

My experience--as a student (in 8 schools elementary through grad school), teacher (briefly) and as a parent of three children--tells me that improvement requires increased funding, smaller, more decentralized schools (200 to 600), smaller class sizes (maximum 25 for most courses) and simpler curriculums emphasizing excellence in the core subjects of English (reading and writing), math, science, foreign languages, music and the fine and industrial arts. Comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education should be a part of every school's curriculum.

School athletics should emphasize participation by all students, not major sports with a few stars and many student spectators. Excellence in scholarship and service should be recognized as well as athletic performance.

Teacher education and standards for the middle and high school level should have greater emphasis on in-depth knowledge of subject matter in addition to courses in teaching techniques.

School administrations should be leaner and more decentralized with greater authority vested in the principals and teachers in administrative and curriculum decisions.

Charter schools can have a useful role to play but not to the extent of the wholesale supplanting of public schools. Contrary to Waiting for Superman which was a one-sided commercial for charter schools, they are not a silver bullet. They are over-rated as a solution to improving education in this country.

Consideration should be given to providing longer school days, weeks and school years. For many kids, school is the best place they ever go, and they know it. The poorer they are, the truer this is. Inner city schools, with the right amount of solid financial support and by getting rid of the dead weight of school board members who pad their pockets, take trips and have paid drivers on the public ticket. Increased funding is needed not for talking about the process of educating, but money spent on the face-to-face of teacher and student. Give the kid the teacher he needs, in the safe place he needs. Give the teacher the resources he or she needs, in time, materiel, support, respect, training, and encouragement. And give them both more time - the settlement house concept of the evening public school has never been more needed. These aren't the immigrant children Jane Addams took care of, but they are every bit as much strangers in a strange land, small people who have to act big to survive.

Higher school performance can only be achieved by implementing specific improvements in the educational process. In and of themselves, high stakes test score standards used to judge schools and teachers accomplishes little and often is harmful.

N.R.A. Recommends Assigning Police Guards to All Schools

Soon after the Newtown, Connecticut, slaughter of 20 first-graders and six staff members, the N.R.A. recommended that police be assigned to all schools. Aside from the expense, this would be a poor public policy because police guards would soon on their own initiative or as a result of requests from teachers or administrators, become involved in student disciplinary matters traditionally and best handled by teachers and staff. Experience in Mississippi public schools where police turn minor disciplinary problems into criminal matters, described in the New York Times articles and editorial linked below, supports the conclusion that routine assignment of police to schools is not a useful policy.

Diane Ravitch's New Book "Reign of Terror...The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools" reviewed by Jonathan Kozol (See link below.)

"Our urban schools are in trouble because of concentrated poverty and racial segregation," which make for a "toxic mix." "In her new book she arrows in more directly, and polemically, on the privatization movement which shw calls a 'hoax' and a 'danger' that has fed on the myth that schools are failing..."

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/books/review/reign-of-error-by-diane-ravitch.html?ref=books



[I am responsible for the views expressed in this article, but I wish to acknowledge the help of a dedicated teacher friend of mine, Tess Hoffman, who suggested several substantive changes and additions and made a number of corrections in my punctuation and grammar as well. Fellow Hubber and teacher, Barranca, also contributed to the article.]

"The Trouble With Testing Mania" NYTimes Editorial 7-14-13

"Congress made a sensible decision a decade ago when it required the states to administer yearly tests to public school students in exchange for federal education aid. The theory behind the No Child Left Behind Act was that holding schools accountable for test scores would force them to improve instruction for groups of children whom they had historically shortchanged.

"Testing did spur some progress in student performance. But it has become clear to us over time that testing was being overemphasized — and misused — in schools that were substituting test preparation for instruction. Even though test-driven reforms were helpful in the beginning, it is now clear that they will never bring this country’s schools up to par with those of the high-performing nations that have left us far behind in math, science and even literacy instruction.

"Congress required the states to give annual math and reading tests in grades three through eight (and once in high school) as a way of ensuring that students were making progress and that minority children were being fairly educated. Schools that did not meet performance targets for two years were labeled as needing improvement and subjected to sanctions. Fearing that they would be labeled poor performers, schools and districts — especially in low-income areas — rolled out a relentless series of “diagnostic” tests that were actually practice rounds for the high-stakes exams to come.

"That the real tests were weak, and did not gauge the skills students needed to succeed, made matters worse. Unfortunately, most states did not invest in rigorous, high-quality exams with open-ended essay questions that test reasoning skill. Rather, they opted for cheap, multiple-choice tests of marginal value. While practically making exams the center of the educational mission, the country underinvested in curriculum development and teacher training, overlooking the approaches that other nations use to help teachers get constantly better.

"The government went further in the testing direction through its competitive grant program, known as Race to the Top, and a waiver program related to No Child Left Behind, both of which pushed the states to create teacher evaluation systems that take student test data into account. Test scores should figure in evaluations, but the measures have to be fair, properly calibrated and statistically valid — all of which means that these evaluation systems cannot be rushed into service before they are ready.

"Foreign nations with the highest-performing school systems did not build them this way. In fact, none of the top-performing nations have opted for a regime of grade-by-grade standardized tests. Instead, they typically have gateway exams that determine, for example, if high school students have met their standards. These countries typically have strong, national curriculums. Perhaps most important, they set a high bar for entry into the teaching profession and make sure that the institutions that train teachers do it exceedingly well.

"In Finland, for example, teacher preparation programs are highly competitive and extremely challenging. (The programs are free to students and come with a living stipend.) Close attention is devoted not just to scholarly and research matters but to pedagogical skills.

"This country, by contrast, has an abysmal system of teacher preparation. That point was underscored recently in a harrowing report on teacher education programs from the National Council on Teacher Quality, a research and advocacy group. The report found that very few programs meet even basic quality standards: new students are often poorly prepared, and what the schools teach them “often has little relevance to what they need to succeed in the classroom.”

"Some problems could be partly solved by the Common Core learning standards, an ambitious set of goals for what students should learn. The Common Core, adopted by all but a handful of states, could move the nation away from rote memorization — and those cheap, color-in-the-bubble tests — and toward a writing-intensive system that gives students the reasoning skills they need in the new economy. But the concept has become the subject of a backlash from test-weary parents who have little confidence in a whole new round of exams that the system will require. Beyond that, teachers are understandably worried that they will be evaluated — and pushed out of jobs — based on how their students perform on tests related to the old curriculum while they are being asked to teach the new one. If school officials fail to resolve these issues in a fair manner, the national effort to install the new standards could collapse.

"Congress could ease some of the test mania by rethinking the way schools are evaluated under No Child Left Behind. Test scores are important to that process, but modest weight should be given to a few other indicators, like advanced courses, promotion rates, college-going rates and so on. Similarly, the states that have allowed the districts to choke schools with the diagnostic tests and data collection could reverse that trend so that schools have perhaps one or two higher-quality tests per year. In other words, the country needs to reconsider its obsession with testing, which can make education worse, not better.

5-30-11NYTimes Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

The best use that Bill Gates could make of the fortune he spends on education would be to create the kind of schools that he and other extremely wealthy people send their children to: schools with small classes (not necessarily small schools), a good ratio of adults — teachers and support staff — to students, intensive remediation for those who need it, and enrichment of all kinds, including the arts, sports, technology, clubs and trips.

There’s no mystery about quality education. Wealthy people know exactly what it consists of and make sure their children get it. We need to help all the other children in America, and elsewhere, get it as well.

LARRY GUTMAN
Brooklyn, May 22, 2011

The writer is a retired teacher.

4-28-11 Fresh Air--Diane Ravitch on Education Reform

Diane Ravitch was interviewed by Terry Gross on "Fresh Air." She was Assistant Secretary of Education in the Bush administration. She is not a fan of "no child left behind" nor of Obama's education policies. Here are some of her comments: (Not verbatim.)

Tests are being used as a blunt instrument against teachers and public schools.

The problem is one of failing communities more than failing teachers and public schools.

Charter schools have become an enormous entrepreneurial activity. Charter school chains are paying their executives $300,000 per year and spending huge sums on publicity claiming they are the solution to public school problems.

As a result of charter schools parents are being pitted against parents, teachers against teachers and students against students.

Charter schools are competing, not collaborating with public schools. They are taking over public school facilities and have more resources to work with.

We are doing everything to undermine public schools, very little to improve them.

The most successful nations have strong public school systems.

Teacher Unions are being attacked by conservatives in Wisconsin and other states in order to undermine their support for Democratic candidates rather than for education reform or budgetary reform.

Diane Ravitch is the author of a new book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education.

J. Edwards Deming on Individual Performance Evaluation

Here is what W. Edwards Deming had to say about performance rating:

"Fair Rating is Impossible.

"A common fallacy is the supposition that it is possible to rate people; to put them in rank order of performance for next year, based on performance last year.

"The performance of anybody is the result of a combination of many forces--the person himself, the people that he works with, the job, the material that he works on, his equipment, his customer, his management, his supervision, environmental conditions (noise, confusion, poor food in the cafeteria).

"These forces will produce unbelievably large differences between people. In fact, as we shall se, apparent differences between people arise almost entirely from action of the system that they work in, not from the people themselves. A man not promoted is not able to understand why his performance is lower than someone else's. No wonder; his rating was the result of a lottery. Unfortunately, he takes his rating seriously."

Page 71, "Out of the Crisis," W. Edwards Deming

Deming's concepts are based on his work with corporations and other organizations. However, there is much in his approach that should be applied to public schools.

More by this Author


Comments 95 comments

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

This Hub is a work in progress. Suggestions are welcome.


junko profile image

junko 5 years ago

Mr. Deeds I think that hub was a fair and balance over view of public and private education in America.


barranca profile image

barranca 5 years ago

Generally agree with most of what you argue here. Edit: you have used your last paragraph twice.


HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Excellent Hub Ralph. I agree with most of your points. More emphasis needs to be put on helping individual students. Smaller class sizes would be ideal in helping this. The bureaucracy is a mess and more decentralization is needed. I do disagree with you on the importance of charter schools. I believe they are an important idea incubator for educational innovation. I've seen some Newark, NJ charter schools and they are superb. You are correct that they should not be implemented at the expense of the rest of the Public School system. In most cases they are not. Those who wish to use them to advocate for school choice are just wrong. They should be used to supplement and improve the regular school system. I wrote a Hub on this exploring many areas to look at to improve Public Education. It is critical for our children and our country's future. Thank you for exploring and writing about this problem. I wish more people would do so.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your kind comment. It's nice to have someone agree with me once in a while!


Fay Paxton 5 years ago

Excellent hub, Ralph. Whomever comes up to the answer to the school problem will be America's hero. I confess, I haven't a clue.


Jeremey profile image

Jeremey 5 years ago from Arizona

Hard topic to tackle, but you've done it with amazing clarity and openness. One topic I think that should be touched on is the Writers/Editors who are behind the books that are being used as "educational material" but if looked into deep enough can be found to be very bias and one-sided as to the content and topic depth that are covered in our childrens 'school books'!


Middlespecialist profile image

Middlespecialist 5 years ago

I think you said it very well...!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comments. Jeremey, I recall reading somewhere that Texas has an outsize influence on public school text books. Publishers don't want to publish one version for Texas and another for the rest of the country. So, everybody gets the Texas version on controversial issues.


Harlan Colt profile image

Harlan Colt 5 years ago from the Rocky Mountains

My state is currently 43rd in the nation for education. The State superintendant is proposing solutions but the teachers are fighting every step of the way. Both sides are right and wrong here and there in my opinion. Very very good job Ralph. A great read.

- Harlan


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. There is no single villain nor a silver bullet.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Excellent hub. Thanks for a great hub on a topic that needs attention.


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Well Done, Ralph Deeds. While I agree with much of what you've said I have a number of concerns that I believe need to be addressed. Charter schools apparently are doing some good work, but I am greatly concerned that the improvement in basic education not come from depriving public schools of money, good teachers and union representation. Also, I am greatly concerned about the movement toward longer schools days and a longer school year. Kids must be kids. The social skills they obtain from their relationships in their neighborhoods and with other friends and relatives are very important. Organized activities are wonderful, but they should not be exclusive. Youngsters need to work out problems for themselves, and their few hours of personal time a day and their summer vacations provide the opportunity to do some real problem solving in their own lives. Private schools and Charter schools should not threaten the existence of public schools. We need a renewed effort to make the public schools work.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

"The social skills they obtain from their relationships in their neighborhoods and with other friends and relatives are very important."

That was very true in my experience. We did all kinds of interesting things after school from building club houses, playing pickup baseball and touch football, exploring the woods near our neighborhood. I don't doubt that what you say is true in suburban Connecticut or Michigan. I'm not so sure it's as true in inner city Detroit or Newark where what kids learn are survival skills at best or at worst criminal skills. Also, taking a snapshot today of the kids in Detroit, many are far behind where they should be for their age, and for this reason more than one teacher has said they believe that longer hours are needed, especially for children who aren't offered anything constructive during their time away from school.

"Private schools and Charter schools should not threaten the existence of public schools. We need a renewed effort to make the public schools work." I agree 100% with that!

In our metropolitan area charter schools are displacing public schools, public libraries are being closed and the roads and bridges are in disrepair. We're one of the richest countries in the world, but we can't afford the resources to repair our schools or roads. Something is seriously wrong.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 5 years ago from Illinois

Ralph, I have to disagree with the premise of most of this Hub. My background of growing up in the South Bronx I Have seen, and lived with this more than these geniuses that did the above studies.

My elementary school was approximately 33% Black, 33% White and 33% Puerto Rican. Classwise the Whites were ecomically the top, the Black and Puerto Ricans were about equal. The Whites weren't that far ahead earnings wise.

The biggest thing was all had two parents, and the men worked (some women also). Being White, my friends all talked about who would make it. This was in second grade with 42 kids in a class.

We chose two White boys, and two Black boys to go to Ivy League Colleges, quite a stretch for second graders. The two White boys ended up attending better high schools, (they passed tests to get in) and ended up at Cornell and Pennsylvania. The two Black boys went to Columbia and Yale. The four are doctor's and lawyers. All four had one thing in common, parents that put them on the correct path.

We all had the same teachers in elementary and Jr. High School, they all did a good job. Today is very different. I was called by someome trying to build a new Jr. High School. The problem was that they presently had too many kids in a class, 18 ( and a teaching assistant). She told me it was impossible to have more than 12.

All that's needed these days is testing for teachers, (as we do for doctor's, lawyers, etc.) no tenure and controlled pensions. H


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 5 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I think, Ralph, the problems faced by the kids in Detroit and those in similar circumstances in other cities eminate from poverty and, as a result, unstable neighborhoods. Longer hours at school would no doubt help them, but that's not the answer to their plight. Private schools and Charter schools pull significant education funding that inevitably will hurt public schools and give those who oppose public schools more ammunition to fight against the public schools. If the corporations paid their fair share of taxes some of these problems could be alleviated.


Harvey Stelman profile image

Harvey Stelman 5 years ago from Illinois

Forgot something. Deming's theories brought Japan back after WWll. But he spoke mostly of economics, not education. His economic theorie worked well for many ears, but eventually brought Japan's economy down. H


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Deming's theories can and have been applied successfully to improve various PROCESSES and ORGANIZATIONS. His mantra was "cooperation to improve the process." It's hard to improve the education process, however, when so much of the problem results from poverty, unemployment, lack of health care services, drug use, lack of good parenting, single parent homes, etc. It's not fair to single out teachers alone for blame.

Thanks, William and Harvey for your thoughtful comments.


tmckim profile image

tmckim 5 years ago

I've been a teacher for 20 years now. I've taught high school math and English and have extensive experience at the Middle School level. Now, I'm a GED Instructor at Job Corps. One thing that we don't have at Job Corps is PETs.

You make some excellent points here. I agree about your ideas about curriculum and about teachers having in-depth knowledge of subject matter. I disagree that it's a funding problem. School funding has steadily been increasing for many years.

One thing that is never discussed regarding schools, is Special Ed. It needs to be dismantled and another, more sensible system, put in it's place.

http://www.somersetmath.blogspot.com


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. I'm especially pleased to hear from teachers.

In response on one point--many urban school districts are facing severe financial problems.Detroit schools' problems are many. First of all the decline of GM, Ford and Chrysler has created the highest unemployment in the country. This has resulted in a severe decline in city, state and school revenues. Combine this with mismanagement by the school board and system management including financial fraud as well as management incompetence and you have a demoralized school system. Poverty, single parents, drugs and inner city crime accentuate the problems of the schools.


Harvey Stelman 5 years ago

Don't leave out the Unions. Why are so many union people willing to behave the way we have seen on TV? The Tea Party din't even need to be cleaned up after. I guess the garbage union needed the money for working other places, Wisc, etc. H


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Unions aren't perfect institutions, but they are not the main problem with demoralized school systems. They serve the important purpose of providing a voice for their members in their working conditions and procedures to assure their fair treatment and protection from arbitrary action.

The Tea Party is beyond the scope of this topic. Suffice it to say that it is a fountain of ignorance and destruction of our political system.



Robert Dente 5 years ago


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks, Robert. I incorporated the links into the Hub.


Harvey Stelman 5 years ago

Ralph, So the majority of people that elected our new Congress are not to be listened to, they don't exist. You better keep your ear plugs on, if the Republican's ever get their message straight. H


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

In the unlikely event they have something reasonable and intelligent to say they will be listened to. The Tea Baggers are destroying the GOP in case you haven't noticed. And if allowed, they will destroy the country.


Robert Dente 5 years ago

My pleasure Ralph!

". . . So the majority of people that elected our new Congress are not to be listened to, they don't exist."

I wonder how many voters who voted for these reactionary hard-liners , now regret their votes.


Harvey Stelman 5 years ago

The Republican's are in disaray, yes. I believe the Democrat's are also, just look at Obama's numbers. H


Robert Dente 5 years ago

It's not about numbers, Harvey; it's about a jihad of ideologies by an angry, frightened, and misinformed populace, all stoked by demagogues and corporate weasels—and the politicians they bribe.


seekingmeme profile image

seekingmeme 5 years ago from North Carolina

As a veteran high school math teacher, I want to commend you for a very well-written hub. One of the other big issues on the table now is the implementation of national standards. While I am for this concept, in theory, I have seen first hand the benefits of breaking out of the "one size fits all" approach to public education. Students are individuals. Each learn at different rates and with different learning styles. In an effort to "save" money, many districts are increasing class sizes to the point that kids in the middle go unnoticed. One of my 5th grade son's teachers actually said to me, "With 33 students in the class, since your son doesn't cause trouble or ask many questions, sometimes I hardly notice him." That was really disheartening.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. We're on the same wavelength.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

After remarks on testing in schools, President Obama has been challenged by several bloggers as opposing the very policies that his Education Department is putting into practice.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/education/07educ...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Cathleen P. Black, a magazine executive with no educational experience who was named as New York City schools chancellor last fall, will step down Thursday morning at the mayor’s urging, city officials said, after a tumultuous and brief tenure.

Ms. Black’s resignation, which comes on the heels of the departures of several other high-ranking education officials, was nearly as surprising as her appointment. When Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plucked her from Hearst Magazines to run the nation’s largest public school system, people in New York and across the country — including some of the mayor’s closest aides — were stunned.

Ms. Black will be replaced by Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott, who has long aided the mayor in educational matters, officials said.

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/cathi...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

An empowered Bronx school principal makes progress but has to overcome many problems. Ramon Gonzalez's record of improvement of his experimental middle school is inspiring. But this long article shows the many obstacles to reforming an inner city school in a huge district like New York City.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/magazine/mag-10S...


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

Hi Ralph,

Perhaps the very best answer for fixing public schools is to privatize them. Completely eliminate public schools. Completely. No more unions. No more failures that live on and on and on. Education is a service. Some people will want to pay for a high quality service. Others will just want the basic package. Let each person purchase the amount and the quality that they can afford. The whole problem will be fixed overnight.

Let us begin today.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

sn53Anon (whoever you are), education is a RIGHT, not a "service". The idea that it should be privatized and parents "purchase the amount and quality they can afford" is absurd and no different than the current system. Education dollars in most states are based on the value of real estate in each district, meaning schools in poor neighborhoods get less money to operate than schools in affluent neighborhoods. So much for America's claim of "equal opportunity for all".


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

Hi Jama,

Why do you believe education is a right?

Do you believe you have a right to transportation? To housing? To a job? How is education different from any other good or service that we make choices about?

When you buy anything else do you look to the government to give you one choice? Or do you prefer to have many choices from which you get to choose?


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

As usual your comments are mean-spirited and ridiculous, even for an extreme libertarian.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Thank you, Ralph. Your reply was much more civil than any that crossed MY mind. ;D


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

okay. So the two of you are very cosy. Neither of you answered my reasonable questions.


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

Hi Jama,

You wrote, "sn53Anon (whoever you are),"

Who I am is unimportant, really. If you want you can review my biographical sketch. What is important is that I bring excitement and vibrant new thought to Ralph's hub. You, and he, ought to applaud and encourage me.

". . .education is a RIGHT, not a "service"."

Is it really? Should it be? Should there ever be a right that obligates someone else to pay for something we want?

"The idea that it should be privatized and parents "purchase the amount and quality they can afford" is absurd and no different than the current system."

This was oxymoronic. Or not. Perhaps it is absurd. And no different than the current system. But why do you believe that it is absurd for people to only buy what they can afford? Isn't that what you do?

"Education dollars in most states are based on the value of real estate in each district, meaning schools in poor neighborhoods get less money to operate than schools in affluent neighborhoods."

Isn't that appropriate given that the system is forcing everyone who has property to pay for something that many are not purchasing for themselves? Wouldn't it be better to buy the education you want rather than be compelled to pay for public union thugs along with your occasional teacher? I know I would buy lots of math and English and relatively little Black and Women's studies. I would load up on the sciences and pass on the victomology. If I had a choice.

"So much for America's claim of "equal opportunity for all"."

Let us explore this sentiment. Do you believe there is not equal opportunity for all when we purchase our house, car, bag of groceries, or a cell phone calling plan? Do you believe the law should be so contorted as to force me to get along with less or to pay for someone else's desires in order for the outcomes to be the same?


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

@sn53Anon, I quote from your bio: "I graduated from college in 1975. I spent 20 years as a commissioned officer in the Army. I have started two companies that ultimately failed."

So you had a guaranteed career straight out of college, and you (and probably a wife and kids) lived off the taxpayer's dime for 20 years, getting subsidized housing and free medical care in the bargain. You and your family never had to pay full price for food, clothing or other goods during that 20 years, and the pension you began receiving on retiring in 1995 ensures you'll never wonder where your next meal is coming from. All of which you considered YOUR right by virtue of being a career officer in the U.S. Army.

Sir, all of that makes YOU uniquely UNqualified to whine about your tax dollars being spent on things you don't approve of or that don't benefit you personally. I personally have a problem with MY tax dollars being spent on a bloated defense budget and supporting people like you.


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

Hi Jama,

Gosh that was brilliant. Never before have I seen such a commanding intellect grasping at the irrelevant in order to avoid difficult thought.

Should you ever decide to begin thinking, rather than avoiding thought, to consider the real problems of life instead of grasping at any argument to avoid having to actually think, my questions will be here for you to consider.

Yep. My life was very easy. As for my retirement, I would gladly give up that small amount if, in exchange I could have back a constitutionally-based, limited government.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

I have deleted several comments by sn53Anon which didn't meet my purpose in publishing this hub which was to elicit constructive suggestions for improving public schools. Feel free to return with constructive ideas.


sn53Anon profile image

sn53Anon 5 years ago from Huntsville, AL

Hi Ralph,

That is your right. Keep the comments focused to what you want to hear. Go for it.

Peas in a pod. You are fired. I shall not be back to your hubs.


drbruce profile image

drbruce 5 years ago from Singaraja, Bali

Well-written hub about a topic that's vital to all countries, not just the U.S. As a retired teacher and administrator, I find the current climate for teachers to be disheartening. Cutting teaching positions, increasing class sizes and relying on standardized test scores to evaluate schools and teachers is only going to make the current situation worse. I've been fortunate in working in international schools for the past 20 years where small class sizes, respect for teachers, appropriate funding and a high level of parental support is the norm. As seekingmeme noted above, teachers need to be able to use individualized instruction in order to maximize student learning. That's not going to happen in schools with 30+ students in a classroom.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. I'm especially glad to get comments from career educators.


wilderness profile image

wilderness 5 years ago from Boise, Idaho

American schools have become little more than a money sponge that produces little to no results.

I recently completed work re-building a burned out small town high school, suitable for around 500 students. There were 20 classrooms. There was a office for the principal, 3 for vice principals, a main office for 3 receptionists, offices for 2 nurses, 3 counselors and a full time police officer on duty (that one chocked full of fancy surveillance equipment and computer gear). Three offices for a coaching staff of at least 10 or so. Two janitorial offices were included.

The entire school was built for immediate panic button shutdown with all doors closing and locking. All south facing windows came equipped with electric, remote controlled blinds. Any wall a student might come into contact with was made of cinder block - students will destroy anything else. Classrooms had an in-class PA system so the teacher could be heard in the back of the room over the din from students.

Beyond this there is the inevitable school building with all the administrators. The bottom line is that that school was a masterpiece of waste, requiring far more both to build and to operate than the teachers would ever need. There must have been twice as much administration and maintenance staff as there was teaching.

Still, I think that the root problem, and one that must be solved for any real education reform, is the home life. Without a massive change in the way that inner city dwellers view education it will never improve. Eliminate the bloated bureaucracy, end ridiculous teacher tenure, close the classes teaching things no student will ever need, reduce classroom size; all of these will help, but if kids get no encouragement and help from parents it will not solve the problem. When 90% of student's parents won't join the PTA or visit the school it is a problem that must be solved first.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 years ago Author

HOW TO FIX MATH EDUCATION

"...different sets of math skills are useful for different careers, and our math education should be changed to reflect this fact.

"...most citizens would be better served by studying how mortgages are priced, how computers are programmed and how the statistical results of a medical trial are to be understood...

"...In math, what we need is 'quantitative literacy,' the ability to make quantitative connections whenever life requires (as when we are confronted with conflicting medical test results but need to decide whether to undergo a further procedure) and “mathematical modeling,” the ability to move practically between everyday problems and mathematical formulations (as when we decide whether it is better to buy or lease a new car)."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/opinion/how-to-f...


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Ditto to what Wilderness said. The quest for life-long learning begins at home.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

The Michigan Legislature appears determined to prove that a wide-open school market will rocket the state's students to the head of the national class. But the experiment it is trying to inflict on children and parents is ill-conceived and dangerous.

Detroit Free Press Editorial 12-1-11


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Online Schools Score Better on Wall Street Than in Classrooms - NYTimes.com

A look at the largest online school company’s operations raises serious questions about whether its schools — and full-time online schools in general — are a good deal for children or taxpayers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/education/online...


Samantha Wasson profile image

Samantha Wasson 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

As a teacher with seven years of experience, both in public and private institutions, I have to agree that class size is a critical issue. Although there have been recent studies suggesting that reducing class size doesn't significantly affect student performance (I remain dubious about these findings), it certainly makes a difference for the teacher. In terms of classroom management, in-depth knowledge of student abilities and areas for improvement, as well as workload and morale, smaller class sizes are undoubtedly preferable. Who wouldn't prefer a class of 15 to a class of 30?

I also have a question- there is repeated reference to charter schools in this article. As have worked solely in Australia and Vietnamese international schools I am unfamiliar with this term. Could you please clarify what this means?

Thanks for the article and in advance for the answer!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. I'm especially pleased to get comments from teachers.

Charter Schools are being advocated in the United States as a panacea to improve primary and secondary public schools. They receive public funds but are not subject to all the regulations that apply to public schools, and their teachers are non-union. Some have achieved good results, but overall results have not been better than those in public schools. In some states, e.g., Michigan inner-cities, they are rapidly supplanting public schools with mixed results. Here's a link to Wikipedia's entry on charter schools:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_Schools

Thanks again for your informed comment.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Call us paranoid, but parents like me are starting to wonder whether Mayor Bloomberg’s larger goal isn’t to privatize the entire New York City public school system. Why else would he be foisting charters on communities that don’t want them? And how else can he justify diverting tax dollars to organizations that employ people to blanket neighborhoods with advertisements and try to poach students from public schools that are already thriving?


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

A Very Pricey Pineapple - NYTimes.com

Let’s tackle the topic of privatization of public education.No Child Left Behind created a system of public-funded charter schools, a growing number of which are run by for profit companies. Some are online...The academic results can be abysmal.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

God and Man in Tennessee - NYTimes.com

By politicizing our faith, lawmakers are ignoring Tennessee’s true religious roots and threatening the liberties they claim to protect.

["Gateway sexual activity" and "intelligent" design in Tennessee]


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

5-22-12NYTimes--"Public Money Finds its Way to Private Schools"

Scholarship Funds, Meant for Needy, Benefit Private Schools - NYTimes.com

A growing number of states are passing laws that allow taxpayer-supported scholarship funds, but they have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

6-25-12Wall Street Journal "Why Charter Schools Work" by Deborah Kenny, Founder, Harlem Village Academies

Deborah Kenny: Why Charter Schools Work - WSJ.com

In The Wall Street Journal, Deborah Kenny of Harlem Village Academies writes that accountability for results and freedom from union rules attract the best teachers into the profession.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

9-16-12NYTimesOPINION--"Are We Asking Too Much From Our Teachers?" Alex Kotlowitz

The Chicago Teachers’ Strike, in Perspective - NYTimes.com

Schools are clearly a critical piece — no, the critical piece — in any anti-poverty strategy, but they can’t go it alone.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

1-17-12NYTimes--"Report Criticizes School Discipline Measures in Mississippi Public Schools"

“Police who were initially put in schools to handle matters of safety have become involved in ordinary day-to-day disciplinary infractions.” Students were handcuffed for infractions as minor as not wearing a belt.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/education/report...


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 3 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

Police don't belong in public schools, Ralph. Arresting children as a way of correcting bad behavior is not only bad policy but it also violates the Constitutional rights of the children. School officials need to find a better way -- and so does the community. Bad behavior in school is a community problem, not just a school problem. The arrests reported here are outrageous.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

Thanks, William. As usual we're on the same wavelength.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

2--2-13NYTimes Editorial--"More Lessons About Charter Schools:

More Lessons About Charter Schools - NYTimes.com

States will only replicate mediocrity if they expand charters too quickly. Despite a growing number of studies showing that charter schools are generally no better — and often are worse — than their traditional counterparts, the state and local agencies and organizations that grant the charters have been increasingly hesitant to shut down schools, even those that continue to perform abysmally for years on end.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

3-10-13NYTimes OP-ED "The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools" by David Kirp, Prof. of Public Policy Cal Berkeley

The Secret To Fixing Bad Schools - NYTimes.com

The striking achievement of Union City, N.J. — bringing poor, mostly immigrant kids into the educational mainstream — argues for reinventing the public schools we have.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

2-23-13NYTimes EDITORIAL "Better Charter Schools in NY City"

Better Charter Schools in New York City - NYTimes.com

A new study shows how New York can build on its stronger-than-average record. The Stanford center rocked the education world in 2009 with a national study finding that only 17 percent of charter schools offered students a better education...


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

4-13-13NYTimes OP-ED "Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?" Jal Mehta

Teachers - Will We Ever Learn? - NYTimes.com

Thirty years later, we’re still “a nation at risk.”


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

4-14-13NYTimesMagazine--"Who Knew Greenwich, Connecticut, Was a Model of Equality?" Adam Davidson

Who Knew That Greenwich, Conn., Was a Model of Equality? - NYTimes.com

The Connecticut town may be ground zero for the 1 percent, but its schools have been witness to a low-income economic phenomenon.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

4-18-13NYtimes EDITORIAL "Criminalizing Children at School"

Criminalizing Children at School - NYTimes.com

Districts should think twice before deploying more cops in schools because it might hurt students more than it helps them.


Paul Edmondson profile image

Paul Edmondson 3 years ago from Burlingame, CA

If I could sum this up, the two points seem to be

- Applying the proper resources to education where students get the benefit (smaller classes, materials etc)

- Parents/communities that prioritize education.

Like other pieces of the American economy it seems the wealth/education divide is doomed to grow. Parents in affluent areas will ensure kids get the educational resources. These areas become wealthier over time and in turn the education benefits. Poor areas continue to lag...

If we feel that all children are entitled to the same level of educational opportunities, at a minimum, the schools in more challenging environments need MORE resources (smaller classes, top teachers etc) than the affluent areas. Processes need to improve, waste eliminated, but the core issue is we need to collectively fund it for all children.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

Thanks, Paul. Sounds like we're on the same wavelength.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

5-6-13NYTimes "TED Teams Up with PBS for Education Program" Elizabeth Jensen

TED Teams Up With PBS for Education Program - NYTimes.com

If it is successful, the show could become a template for future joint projects.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

5-30-13NYTimesEditorial "The School to Prison Pipeline"

New York City’s School-to-Prison Pipeline - NYTimes.com

A task force urges New York City’s schools to adopt new approaches to discipline that would not criminalize minor misbehaviors.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 3 years ago from Southern California, USA

There is a simple thing we could do: cut military spending and put that into schools. Now we are talking about another conflict in Syria, and this will be more wasted tax payer dollars. When states such as Hawaii can only afford to have a four day school week for their students, there is no need for us to be intervening in other countries. I think classes sizes could even be smaller, and we need to look at what some other countries, such as Finland and South Korea, and be more open minded about improvements here.

Also, parents are going to have to pick up some of the slack, and not expect all learning to take place in the classroom. Some of the best readers are kids whose parents started taking them to the public library before they could even walk. There are some three year olds who can read circles around seven year olds, and this is simply because their parents took them to literary activities like story time. Even having a library in a low income area will do the trick. Parents who want to emphasize education will do whatever it takes, and many times more than not it does not require a private school education.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment, Sweetie. Unfortunately, libraries are being closed in Detroit and other cities that are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. I agree that our military budget is much too big.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

8-25-13NYTimes Book Review--"Amanda Ripley's 'Smartest Kids in the World'"

Amanda Ripley’s ‘Smartest Kids in the World’ - NYTimes.com

Ripley follows 3 Americans to find how other nations educate students so much more effectively than we...A virtuous cycle is initiated: better-prepared teachers given more autonomy, leading to more satisfied teachers who are more likely to stay on.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

9-29-13 NYTimes Book Review "Reign of Terror" by Diane Ravitch

Review of Diane Ravitch's "Reign of Terror"

In her new book, “Reign of Error,” she arrows in more directly, and polemically, on the privatization movement, which she calls a “hoax” and a “danger” that has fed on the myth that schools are failing.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

12-17-13NYTimes OP-ED "What is good teaching?" Joe Nocera

‘What Is Good Teaching?’ - NYTimes.com

A documentary shows what goes on in the classroom, and serves as an unwitting primer on how to teach disadvantaged students.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

"Bully" film review

"Bully" Movie Review

Bully is a documentary about school bullying that everyone who has young children or who has contact with children should see. Viewing should be mandatory for all elementary and high school teachers and administrators.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

"Bully" film review

http://ralphdeeds.hubpages.com/hub/Bully-

Bully is a documentary about school bullying that everyone who has young children or who has contact with children should see. Viewing should be mandatory for all elementary and high school teachers and administrators.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

8-24-14NYTimesBookReview "Building a Better Teacher" and "Getting Schooled" reviewed by Sebastian Stockman

Log In - The New York Times

"Green, a journalist and the editor of Chalkbeat, an education news organization, argues that good teaching is largely “the result of extraordinary skill, not inborn talent.” If lighting a fire is a skill, it can be learned, and it can be taught."

8-24-14NYTimesBook Review "The Teacher Wars" review by Claudia Wallis

"The Teacher Wars" by Dana Goldstein reviewed by Claudia Wallis

"In “The Teacher Wars,” her lively account of the history of teaching, Dana Goldstein traces the numerous trends that have shaped “the most controversial profession in America.”


Encarnacion 21 months ago

We don't have iPads for students, but we are sllwoy integrating more technology. All of my students with ASD now have their own Fusions (it is a portable word processor). We are also starting to install Word Q and Speak Q on our computers for the students to use.Today, I just got a pen that will read written words for the students. I haven't had a chance to play around with it enough, but it seems amazing.I think that it is so exciting to live in the time in which we do. The students have access to so many more resources and it is phenomenal to see them grow by using the technologies.I have one student, in particular, who can pick up any piece of technology and start using it without any manuals or instructions. It is incredible to see!I would bet that many student would become so much more engaged in class if they had iPads to use.I had a colleague suggest that we should provide students with iPads and record ourselves teaching lessons, then allow the students to work at their own pace with us monitoring and reinforcing. It is an interesting way to ensure each student is getting an individual education


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 20 months ago Author

January 6, 2015 Boston Globe "A Review of 'The Test' by Anya Kamenetz"

A review of “The Test” by Anya Kamenetz - Books - The Boston Globe

America has become obsessed with educational testing. It seems to be our magic bullet for all social and economic problems. This has given rise to a far-ranging national debate about the scope, worth, justification, and outcomes of testing. The value of Anya Kamenetz’s new book, “The Test,” lies in her ability to avoid the soapbox style of too many books on education reform today. Her journalistic talents coupled with her role as a mother of a student on the brink of testing humanizes this book, making it a perfect entry for parents who are too deep in the muck of testing to have the clarity of distance.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 20 months ago Author

"If the issue is you have failing public schools, then how is taking more money away from public education and giving it to private entities that are not accountable going to help public schools?"

Alex Villalobos, former Republican state-senate majority leader (Florida) quoted in "The New Yorker" January 26, 2015.


Sgt Prepper profile image

Sgt Prepper 6 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

Public school teachers are Public Enemy #1. Private schools, church schools & better yet homeschooling is the answer.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 5 months ago Author

Sgt Prepper, that's a really dumb comment. Historically, public schools are one of the most basic and important features of our democracy. Allowing charter schools to supplant them would be a huge mistake.

Dr. Staszewski, thanks for your thoughtful comment.


Sgt Prepper profile image

Sgt Prepper 5 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

Public schools started as institutions for children whose parents could not afford to send their kids to private or religious schools. It has grown into an unmanageable monster where we are forced to pay for our children to be kept from our influence and brainwashed against their own parents.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 months ago Author

We don't agree. Public schools have been an essential element in our democratic society. Do you have any positive suggestions?


Sgt Prepper profile image

Sgt Prepper 4 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

#1-Homeschool!(a woman's place really still is in the home)

#2-ADD & ADHD kids just need a few more good hard spankings.

#3-When in doubt make believe you are Amish!


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 4 months ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

We don't need home schooll, SgtPrepper, what we need is for education to be financed through state and federal taxes instead of local cities and towns through property taxes -- which results in poorer districts being drastically underfunded while wealthier districts are well funded. Spankings and religious training only raises highly emotional and frustrated youngsters.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 months ago Author


Sgt Prepper profile image

Sgt Prepper 4 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

What we need is a LOT less federal intrusion in education. The mainstream media, universities and public schools have convinced our young Americans it is selfish to have children when really their is nothing less selfish. Also global-warming is the biggest lie since evolution. Out of the UN NOW!


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 months ago Author

Suggest you read up a bit on climate change: http://hubpages.com/politics/GLOBAL_WARMING


Sgt Prepper profile image

Sgt Prepper 4 months ago from Elkhorn, WI

Global-warming is just a ruse put to us by the global-elite so they can use the United Nations to control the whole world. They are attempting to make us believe in man-made global-warming and a worldwide drinking water shortage. All part of the plan to undermine the sovereignty of all nations and get RFID verichips called "Digital Angel" embedded in every human on earth before the end of 2017(per Henry Kissinger). Kenyan-born BHO will lead the entire earth as UN Secretary General/Antichrist.

Prepare for martial-law and get ready for The Rapture! God help us!

PS - buy another gun or two and more ammo & stock-up on canned goods, TP, etc.

PPS - read your Bible too!

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