Americans are so delusional. We think we’re better than we are. We think we’re the best at everything. We are so great, we think other countries should emulate us. Bless our hearts. We don’t know. Like, literally. We don’t know much.
Especially about K-12 public education. Education is one of the largest social institutions in the nation touching the lives of almost every person in the country at some point, yet we put far more time and effort into researching a new car than researching our children’s schools and education policies. It is therefore unsurprising that our schools suck. Yes, I said it. They suck. We are a body of people who know nothing but continue to advocate for sweeping education reform efforts with little to no understanding of the variables that truly affect student achievement and for whom and in what context those variables are indeed causal mechanisms.
We rely on education rhetoric and political propaganda to inform our knowledge about schools. Words and phrases like “school choice”, “privatization”, “accountability”, “small classes”, “parental involvement”, “teacher quality”, and “standardization” overwhelm the discourse about education and mask the real conversations we should be having to improve our schools.
Take this 10 question(ish) quiz (answers at the bottom) and see how much you know about public education.
- What is the United States’ global education ranking?
- Define NCLB and CCSS
- Define RTTT. How much money has been dedicated to this reform effort? What do school districts do to get these funds? How effective has this movement been?
- How are schools funded? What percentage of school funding is from the federal government? What is the relationship between per pupil expenditure (primary measure of school funding) and student achievement?
- What qualifications do people need to become full time K-12 teachers?
- Who is the Secretary of Education? What is his experience in education? Who was rumored to be an alternative nominee for the position?
- What is constructivist learning?
- Does class size or teacher quality matter more in predicting student achievement?
- How do charter schools differ from a privatized school? Are charter schools more or less effective than traditional schools?
- What is the sole predictor (i.e., the only variable we consistently see connected to achievement) of student achievement?
Don’t be this woman. Don’t just say nonsense (i.e., things about which you know very little in relation to academic achievement) as justification for choosing a particular school for your child. Educate yourself about what matters in schooling so you can see through the propaganda and be an informed participant in educational discourse.
- No Child Left Behind, Common Core State Standards
- Race to the Top. For the rest of the answers, check out two past blog posts of mine. Race to the Top and Obama on Education
- Schools are primarily funded by local property taxes (approximately 70-75% depending on the state). Only about 8% of schools funding comes from the federal government. The remaining money is allocated to education from the state budget. Check out this post to see the relationship between school funding and achievement: School funding
- Teacher qualifications vary by state. Each state requires at least 1test (some states require 3) and a minimum of hours (Florida requires 200 hours. Colorado requires 800) spent in the classroom to get licensure—NOT to be a classroom teacher. One can become a full time classroom teacher with a provisional or alternative license with only a Bachelors degree and one test and zero hours in the classroom. Most states allow people to have provisional (e.g., alternative) licenses for up to 3 years before they are required to get a professional license.
- Arne Duncan is the SoE. Here is his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arne_Duncan Notice that he has never been a classroom teacher or school-level administrator. He majored in Sociology in undergrad and holds no advanced degrees (nonetheless in education). Rumor has it that President Obama was going to pick Professor of Education at Stanford University, Linda Darling Hammond.
- Constructivist learning is not anything. Constructivism is a theory about how people come to know. It is common in educational settings to hear people say they are ‘constructivist’ teachers. Whenever someone says that, it is obvious they have never taken an educational psychology course and have little understanding of the difference between cognitive theories and pedagogies.
- Neither matters more. There is a tipping point at which even the best quality teacher becomes ineffective in a large class. That tipping point ranges between 32-38 depending upon level and subject matter. Prior to that, a quality teacher matters more to student achievement than class size. In other words, a good teacher can effectively teach 30 students.
- Charter schools are public schools that receive about 80% of their funding from private sectors. They are still held accountable to public education state standards BUT they are policed by their own charters instead of common education policy. Privatized schools are schools whose funding is 100% from the private sector. This means that they operate outside of the bounds of government control and can set their own standards and their own policies. 20 years of evidence suggests that charter schools are no more or less effective than traditional public schools.
- Socioeconomic status is the sole predictor of student achievement (and broad scale life success).