2. Regular readers of this little hole in the blogosphere know that my wife is a public school teacher. She's been one for over fifteen years. She's taught in a wealthy utopian "exburb" district and in the worst-performing inner city middle schools of IPS. She now teaches in the high school Magnet program, and is highly regarded. As an art teacher her direct experience has more to do with funding, or the lack of it, than the particulars of fad-of-the-month and political pressure on curricula of teachers in the "hard" subjects. Still she's plenty affected. She presently has a class (non-Magnet) of forty students in a room with thirty seats. I invite anyone interested to try it.
3. I've put my arm around her as she cried uncontrollably over the home life some students endure. I've stood beside her at the funeral of a sixteen-year-old who was shot by a crazy woman whose son he bumped on an apartment staircase. I've researched OSHA laws to prevent uncaring administrators from shutting her paint-and-solvent using classes in an unventilated room, and I've read Indiana employment laws to put a stop to a business using her students until 2AM on weekdays. I'm no mindless cheerleader for incompetent teachers, unions, administrators, and politicians. I think there are enormous structural problems with our Factory School programs in this country.
4. Be that as it may, I believe, from an admittedly limited and non-professional perspective colored by my unapologetic political biases, that the greater problem for our schools over the last thirty years has been political meddling which has sought to portray public schools in the worst possible light, and often a racist one at that. This is not to impugn the honesty or sincerity of everyone who disagrees with me. It is rather to say that the landscape must be cleared of half-truths and hidden agendas, and the case for public education made over and over.
5. This is just my web journal. I talk about whatever catches my fancy. This weekend that's the 20/20 report. I have a rough idea that after dealing with that I'll write another piece more descriptive of our public educational system. Or I might get distracted and rate some power tools. There are plenty of good professional education sites where people don't just talk off the top of their heads.
Let's go to the phones:
There are those who will mischaracterize Stossel as being “anti-education.” This label is inaccurately conveyed, as it should be labeled “pro-education reform”. So to use “anti-education.” and denominate those is misinforming.
As my personal bodyguard D. Sidhe has pointed out, I didn't call him that. I'll have more to say about Stossel's motivation later, but the short answer is, you can't reform what you refuse to understand beyond a caricature.
The “War on Public Education” is a straw man. There has never been such a war.... [There] are simply observers, who pointedly remind us of the many facets of public education which can use serious reform....Part of the debate is calling a spade a spade, shining a light on egregious examples of the misdeeds of public educators, their union, administrators, and aspects of the system itself.
I'll talk about unions in the next part. But frankly, the denial that there's a war on public education doesn't jibe with the strong anti-union sentiments that so frequently accompany it. I never hear an opponent of teacher unions or the "educational establishment" discuss what these groups actually do, just offer horror stories and assertions that bad teachers can't be fired.
The U.S. spent around $3,700 per student in 1970. Using the handy-dandy government inflation calculator...we find that would purchase $18,843 in 2005, pretty close to a private school tuition.
Interesting in that one of Mr. Stossel's informants claimed that education spending had doubled, adjusted for inflation, in that same period.
Parents for Competitive Education:
Your defensive tone, angry words, and shallow ranting proves unequivocally that Stossel and ABC are right on.
First time reader, I take it. Stossel should have had me on, I guess. Would have saved a trip to Belgium.
Introducing competition, and making schools and teachers accountable for student performance, would give the U.S. education system the intellectual and organizational reform it so badly needs.
[shallow rant alert] "The good news, Janie, is you passed into the fourth grade. The bad news is, we're downsizing it." Competition is a tool; you'll have to excuse me for passing whenever it's offered as a panacea. We have competition now, for the wealthy and a few lucky Lotto winners. And as Stossel pointed out last night, 57% of the public gives its own public school an A or B. When I hear the plan that takes care of the poorest of the poor, and the most hopeless, as its first priority, I'll listen.
[T]he main question I have for the anti-reformers is this: if a universal voucher system destroyed public education, how would we tell?
Off the top o' me head: when the only students left in what remains of our public schools are the special needs children and disciplinary problems the private schools now routinely dump back on them, if they accept any in the first place. And when the rising price tag is used as an excuse to rejigger the system, as it will be.
You quote Stossel as saying: "Here in Belgium the government spends less than American schools do per student..." and you offer some unlinked data to support your attempted falsification of his thesis. Because I couldn't easily find the data you were basing your analysis on, I searched and found better data. Here it is:Expenditure on educational institutions per student (2000)BelgiumPrimary education: - $4,310.15All Secondary education: - $6,889United StatesPrimary education: - $6,994.63All Secondary education: - $8,855.06Expenditure on educational institutions per student relative to GDP per capita (2000)BelgiumPrimary education: - $16.33All Secondary education: - $26.10 United StatesPrimary education: - $20.21All Secondary education: - $25.59So, Stossel is correct on his point. The only place you can find a technical violation is in regards to secondary education when analyzed on a per capita basis, and it's quite a minor quibble at that.Further, your choice of using % of GDP is inappropriate. What Stossel asked was who spent more on education.
Thanks. I'm an old guy. I quoted the study the figures came from and the page number, which was sufficient in the last century. I didn't link it in part because it's a 70-page .pdf file, and the citation was sufficient to check my accuracy. I'll dig up the link if you'd like it.
Why I used % of GDP: first, it's the method from the test study Stossel was (presumably) using. Second, the spending in actual dollar figures (I didn't avoid them, btw. I didn't look, partly for this reason.) is something of a canard. "What Stossel asked" was a loaded question; the only way to truly compare the two would be to look at services. Percent of GDP certainly offers a better way to compare government commitment to education, I think, but either that or actual dollars/student leave a lot of questions unanswered. What do we spend on athletics, say, vs. Belgium? Believe me, athletics has a lot to do with parental approval; we're planning a high school athletic Magnet program for IPS here despite a plummeting budget. But they don't test hand/eye coordination on the PISA. To use the car analogy, it's not a question of who spent what, but who got what. Korea and Japan, for example, spend less as a percent of GDP than the US does, but they pay their teachers more.
The OECD report found a slight correlation between expendature and performance. So there are obviously a number of other factors involved. It was wrong to say Stossel "fabricated" the numbers without an exhaustive search for evidence, but then he's the one doing the network television report. He had the time for a citation. And his "question" simply ignored all complexities.
So, let me get this straight. Your criticism is that he targeted these districts as being unrepresentative of the nation's school districts but you let stand his characterization of the facts unchallenged. Is that right? Everything Stossel said was accurate,but only for NYC and Washington?
Um, well, the only "facts" Stossel offered about either, besides the general drift of the report, was the final section about NYC unions. And that's in the next part.
...could you sketch out a cursory argument of the perils of choice?
My comment was that "choice" was a major theme of the first part of the report. I don't think that can be addressed in a cursory way; maybe later, more fully.
"Program impacts on school environments were considerably smaller than impacts on neighborhoods, suggesting that achievement-related benefits from improved neighborhood environments are alone small." So the parents are acting to separate their kids from whatever bad influences they perceive, whether justified or not, whether rational or not, whether moral or not. Those parents are making choices but have to go through a convoluted process, rather than a straightforward one.
The major predictors of academic achievement are socio-economic status and parent's educational level. If we're really serious about not Leaving Children Behind we'll concern ourselves more with getting them adequate nutrition and health care, and much less about how they compare with Poland.
What's the "straightforward" process? Everybody on the bus, we're going to the successful school?
Umm, it's pretty boring for a TV reporter to stand in front of a camera and hold a document and tell the audience the content of that document. It's quite a bit more engaging to create a situation that is dynamic, such as using real students, the students taking the test, the commentary from the students. As near I can tell your beef with Stossel is that the test results, which indeed supported his thesis, were unduly amplified by his selection bias. So, it's the amplification, not the binary truthfulness that is the problem.
The way it's boring to wait a couple minutes for the Pinto to actually catch fire? C'mon. What stopped him from reporting the actual results, and admitting his little teevee dynamic produced results worse than average? There was a lot of talking heads stuff in the report. In the NYC union bit he unfurled a diagram instead of dramatizing the process.
You're citing Middle School curricula as a mitigating circumstance to excuse the lowering of student performance because middle school is preparing the students with a good foundation for later study. Is that right? If so, please back it up.
What I said was that's one of the arguments offered in mitigation. And it is. That's all. Neither this blog nor that last post is my life's work.