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Fix education

  1. Feb 1, 2006 #1

    Pengwuino

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    Ok let's have a little fun here. You are the President of the United States. Fix the education system. No complaining, just solutions. Be specific, this is not a beauty contest where "fund education" is enough to win. Tell us how you would impliment the plan, what laws you would pass, etc etc. Let's see what the people have to say!

    So let's hear it!

    This is the first in the Pengwuino's "No complaints, lots of solutions" series of threads.*

    *This name is subject to change without notice as cooler names are decided. Do not make financial decisions without consulting a professional accountant. The market fluctuates and there is significant risk involved. Please consult your broker before investing.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2006 #2

    Moonbear

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    Okay, I don't have all the solutions, but I have a place where I'd like to start. I'd like to encourage people with subject-specific PhDs to teach in high schools. There are plenty of people who love to teach, and would do this, but don't because of 1) the pain-in-the-butt rules for getting certified, many of which could and should be waived for someone with a PhD and university teaching experience; let that serve as your student-teaching requirement, and 2) the low salary potential. So, we're going to make it easier for someone with a PhD (not in education, but in a specific subject) to get a teaching certification to teach that subject, and we'll reward them with a better salary for bringing in their expertise to the public school classroom.

    Second, anyone teaching at the high school level should be required to have a major in the subject that they are teaching. I'm tired of schools assigning people with education degrees and one non-major biology course to teach biology, so that's something to change. Let the education majors handle the elementary students. If you're going to teach a subject in high school, you need to know it well yourself.

    Basically, this is all about incentives to get some of our brighter members of society into the classroom to teach our youth; there aren't enough of them currently. Teaching used to be viewed as a respectable profession, and we should restore it to that status. We can even set up a government-funded scholarship program similar to the ones set up for paying for med school for people willing to commit 6 years to working in underpriviledged communities, or areas where there is a physician shortage. Likewise, we could have a program where competitive students who are willing to teach in schools where there are shortages of qualified teachers can get a full scholarship through college if they commit to a minimum number of years (5 or 6) teaching in one of those schools. Their assignment would be based on need, so they could be assigned to failing schools, or rural communities, or overcrowded inner city schools to help raise the educational levels in those areas.
     
  4. Feb 2, 2006 #3
    I would stop giving all the money to the sports departments of schools, and give it to the, oh I dont know, education departments that need it. (Arts, Music, History). Sports are great, but you are in school to learn.

    EDIT: Oh yes, I almost forgot, make foreign language a requirement. Kids in 3rd world africa who go to school can speak english, french, and their tribal language. We should be able to also. (My friend speaks 5 languages fluently, hes from Tunisa,.......I hate him).
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2006
  5. Feb 2, 2006 #4

    Pengwuino

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    I didn't even want to add anything to this thread but I just had to add this one thing. What a coincadence... i was talking to a friend and she is still in high school right? She's in a honors Economics course. Her teacher... her TEACHER... HER ECONOMICS TEACHER...has no idea what a mutual fund is or what a cd (certificate of deposit) is! Another irony is that i was just helping out a friend who was doing a paper on how high school doesn't prepare you for college.
     
  6. Feb 2, 2006 #5
    **Here's my solution:

    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=104494

    In regards to the NCLB (as described on Wikipedia), it appears to be quite a good initiative and something we all need: a federal evaluator of the quality of public education that is not affiliated with AFT and NEA unions. NCLB assesses the very schools themselves---not just the districts/states that contain them.Also, it promotes parental choice=>well, of course, in choosing a school for their children.
    ---------/
    IIRC, public education (along with its quality) is (legally) a state's responsibility. As the NCLB is a federal act :rolleyes:, I wouldn't demand much more than an evaluation of schools' academic quality and--generally...as a result--the subsequent financial actions upon the school or the district, usually in the form of federal aid or pressure, depending on how that school or district performs.

    ***Then...what is the problem??***
    The problem (why public education is so crappy), from my perspective, is at the state and/or school district level. In short, the problem...primarily...is grade inflation.
    As this is a "No complaint / only solution"-type thread :smile:---->Here is my solution :biggrin:

    You see :frown:, quoting my giant OP may not do Pengwuino's thread here any good. :redface:
     
  7. Feb 2, 2006 #6

    vanesch

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    :bugeye: :bugeye:

    You mean that that isn't the case ? :bugeye:
     
  8. Feb 2, 2006 #7
    Sorry~~>I couldn't resist!! :shy:
    (Moderators feel free delete this post if you find it redundant. Keep it here please otherwise---it's nice and relevant in this thread :redface:, and a better discussion can ensue in this thread~:smile:)

    Anyway, the my solution is reproduced below:
    ^^

    Here's my solution towards increasing quality of public education:

    *After each grade from 8-12, students will take a state exam on English, math, history...well, whatever basic subjects the state wants covered by those grades :rolleyes:

    *(For teachers) A teacher's income will depend on how closely do the grades they assign match their students' performance on the exam.

    -For example, an algebra teacher assigns a student an "F", but that students scores an "A" on the state exam's algebra section (for his/her particular grade, of course). That teacher's income is lowered, similarly if they assigned an "A" to a student who failed the exam's algebra section.

    -However, this is nothing serious :rolleyes:. Just one or two misgraded student(s)?--Will not impact the teacher's income. Nothing to worry about. But...(:mad:)..if the teacher misgrades proportions upon large proportions of students, then his/her salary will be impacted indeed.

    -Yes, a statistical approach evaluating every student's teacher<->exam grades will be used. Not just mere "samples". Every student...quantitatively considered. (thanks to computers :smile:)
    ---------------------------------
    More conditions:

    *If a teacher assigns an "A" to a student, but the student fails the particular section of the exam, they will not be admitted to the next level course.
    -An example: An algebra teacher assigns a "B" to a student who fails the exam's algrebra section, but passes well in English and history. The student will be held back a semester/year in math...but will nevertheless :rolleyes: move on towards the next level English & history courses.
    *Of course, the whatever "credit/course" requirements for that high school...will probably have to met anyway for graduation :rolleyes:
    ---------------------------
    In effect:

    -Teachers will actually have to grade more directly on students' competence, skills, understanding, and ability.
    -You won't have students in trigonometry class, for example, who cannot multiply fractions.
    -Poorly performing teachers will receive a smaller income, opening up the income "pool" for more outstanding or competent teachers.
    -Teachers who teach fewer students will be encouraged to concentrate and pay more attention to each of those indivduals students...because grades for ten/twenty students will matter more than for a teacher who teaches many more students!
    ----------------------------
    *Problems addressed:

    1) What if a teacher doesn't teach well and just gives every one a 'D' or 'F' ?

    -There are already quotas for the distribution of A/B's & C/D's and F's a teacher can assign without risking a loss in income...or an "investigation" for that matter :wink:. My "teacher<->exam grade" method will not interfere with those quotas...unless it has to (?). I will expand on this, of course.

    2) What if a teacher receives many students who are ill-prepared/have problems/incompetent/etc...?

    -That is currently a problem faced today! (i.e., without my method). However, my method does help alleviate some major tension----e.g., you don't pass the algebra section, you don't move on to trigonomentry class. That teacher will not have to put up with you. Same with other subjects when passing into the next level.

    -Also, the ineptitude/incompetence of students has NO effect on the teacher's income from my method. The teacher is merely required to "fairly evaluate" students, even if it thus means giving an "F". Remember, the income here depends not on the "actual grade assigned" but rather on how closely whatever "grade gets assigned" matches the grade received on the state exam.....be it an A,B,C,D or F or whatever. Remember (however) to reread Question #1 after reading this part :wink:.

    -A trigonometry teacher is not responsible...or at least "supposed to be" :rolleyes:....for a student who cannot multiply fractions. But the teacher will have to put up with him/her anyway if they passed their last semester's/year's algebra course! In a way, the algebra teacher deserves some blame. But any-way, if the student fails the algebra section, then they will not advance into school courses beyond algebra regardless of what their teacher may have assigned to them.

    -Similarly, if an algebra teacher assigns an "F" to a student who well passes the algebra section, then...well, screw the teacher. The student will advance to next level math! :biggrin:

    -You see, those exams are somewhat of a "filter"...if you wish to call it thus.

    3) What if a student cuts class and doesn't take the teacher's tests/assignments? How can the teacher assess them without risking loss of income?

    Simple. Write a note to the district explaining (with good reason) why that particular individual(s) cannot be fairly assessed. That's all (and the student's exam score will not be held for or against the teacher).

    4) Well...what if the test is too easy/hard? What if the teacher wants to do more than just prepare students for a "test" ?

    -Excuse me? "Wishful thinking" is not a question. Public education has extremely low standards and does not perform to even an "adequate" level. Across many neighborhoods, public education severely underperforms. How can we talk about "academic edification beyond standards" when we HAVE NOT EVEN MET THEM??? :mad: Discuss this here, at a General Discussion thread called, "To Americans: Opinions on our schools " (Poll included).

    -Sure, once we have achieved and perform to good standards...we can scrap this whole "teacher<->exam" grade idea and move on!! But not when our public education is the way it is now (and has been for more than two decades). This deserves more of a ":frown:" expression...

    5) Your examples talk about A's & F's. But what about B/C/D's ??

    -There are shades of gray indeed. Surely a teacher<->exam grade disparity of "A" to "F" will definitely affect the teacher's income more than would a "B"<->"C" disparity or an "C"<->"A" disparity.
    -Again, I will re-emphasize that one/two mis-graded individuals will NOT impact a teacher's salary. Only proportions upon large proportions will severely impact a teacher's salary. This may or may not depend on the quantity of students a teacher teaches :rolleyes:. Anyhow, a single/double "A"<->"C" disparity will not affect much. Nor might more than few "A"<->"B" disparities affect anything (those might be rather minor). On the other hand, several "A"<->"D"/"A"<->"C" or "B"<->"D/F" disparities WILL (without doubt) affect salary. And several "A"<->"F" disparities? Not good at all.

    *In other words, the effect on income depends what proportions (or raw quantity, if some might prefer) of that teacher's students are affected by what sizes of disparities.

    -And yes...every student (thanks to computers!), NOT just mere "samples" from the teacher will be quantitatively considered.

    6) Ok..let's say the teacher expects an average "B" grade for the class. What prevents the teacher from randomly assigning "B-C-B-C-A-C-B-B-A-C..etc" to his/her students regardless of their performance?

    The teacher's salary will. You see, a non-lazy teacher will aim for "no disparity AT ALL!" (approach) rather than randomly minimizing it and assign grades randomly about the expected mean performance. The teacher who takes the time to carefully evaluate each student (as they're supposed to) will without doubt earn much more than a teacher who randomly dishes out grades.
    (**Unless a teacher can just "LOOK" at a student and immediately give out the accurate grade :biggrin:...but no one is really that "psychic" :smile:)

    Needless to say, especially holds true if the class is expected to have a large standard deviation between students' competence, abilities, and performance. But you understand my point here nonetheless.

    -For further contentions against Question #6, remember that students can usually bring parents and argue their grades with teachers, based on what the teacher "told" them regarding how the students "will be graded". -Also remember that no serious checks for "random assignment of grades" exist today. Feel free to start another thread on this particular but ridiculously minor issue...which I have needlessly expanded on in my pedantic-ism.

    And finally...question #7:
    7) Do you realize that you might become the archenemy of the teachers' union for proposing this? :biggrin:

    (Yes. Indeed I do :frown:. But I don't really care here :wink:)
    -/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-
    *Anyhow, seriously....

    What are your thoughts? Ideas? Insight? What do you guys think about my teacher<->exam this approach/method/idea ??
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2006
  9. Feb 2, 2006 #8

    Pengwuino

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    I believe what you do is get a "teaching credential" which i THINK is like... half way between minoring in something and majoring in something as far as how much work you have to do. Then you do like a "specialization" where you do a little less then a minor in a certain subject so you are allowed to teach that subject or something. But that is just what i've gathered based on bits and pieces. I KNOW you don't have to have a bachelors in the field you teach... but i'm not exactly sure what you do have to have.
     
  10. Feb 2, 2006 #9

    vanesch

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    In that same thread, I talked about a variant of the method proposed by bomba923, because I think his method has one weakness, which is the difference in ability and prerequisites. This is partly addressed by requiring each student to come in with an "A" level in the required prerequisites, but there is still a lot of wiggle room in A: If you are good buddies with the Principal, he can give you all the A+++ students, and if not, you have to deal with a lot of A-. So it wouldn't be fair.

    I think the best measure is not so much the absolute exit level, but the IMPROVEMENT in level in the course. So if the teacher brings most of his A- up to A+, that's to me a better teacher than the one who gets in all A+++ and brings them out A++.
    Also, if you're in a school in a relatively rich and cultivated environment, chances are that kids will, on average, perform better, while if you're in a poor neighbourhood, it takes much more effort to increase the level of your students (who have much less help at home). So this should be factored in too. I think what has to be determining the pay of the teacher, is:
    1) his education level (pay more to a PhD than an undergrad)
    2) his relative performance, normalized to the public he gets.

    There are teachers who do in fact (relatively) MUCH BETTER with poor kids, and there are teachers who do better with high-brow students. Of course, the exit level will be better for the last category, but that's no reason to underevaluate the work of the first kind of teacher.

    The invoked danger is of course that now, teachers are bound to work towards performance on the standard evaluation tests, so these tests will determine entirely the programme. The difficulty has now been displaced to the good design of standard tests, who DO test the real, desired abilities of the students. Much care must be spend on this.
     
  11. Feb 2, 2006 #10
    ?? Passing just means C- or higher! I don't require anything close to an "A"!...just higher than a C-, is all.

    Secondly, I do not punish teachers for giving "F's" ! Many posters seemed to misunderstand me here. There is no penalty for the teacher at all in assigning F's to students---as long as those students deserve those grades and score poorly on the state exam.

    All I require here is just fair assessment from the teachers. It doesn't matter what they assign (even if it is an "F" or an "A")...but how fair the grade assignment is, in light of the students' competence, knowledge, and ability. No teacher is penalized for fairly assigning an "F" or fairly assigning an "A". Only if that "A" or "F" is un-fairly assigned will a teacher's income be affected.

    And let's not complement those inherent difficulties---with the additional drawback of grade inflation. I expect my program/reform to be especially of great use to poor neighborhoods/districts.

    Normalized to the public he "gets"? NOT a good idea. In your posts, you mentioned that
    "Normalizing" to the public, as you mentioned, is not always a good idea.
    Actually, state standards take into account the population of poorly performing schools/students--one of the reasons why standards can often be quite low.

    Sure, an AP-level exam may favor brighter students~~>but I'm referring to state standards (which are always normalized to poorer or underperforming schools)! Which all schools should meet, regardless of district/economic rankings.
    No...schools and districts alike have standards in place for the courses that they offer. These tests merely enforce those standards. In the post that I quoted from you, you mention some of those standards, at least the ideas behind them.

    You were correct when you described:

    Without a doubt, this will be emphasized.
     
  12. Feb 2, 2006 #11

    vanesch

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    Oh, well, it makes the argument worse then. If you have a class full of C-, you'll have a lower average exit level than if you have a class full of A++ to start with.

    But you cannot require of a teacher ONLY to grade fairly, can you ?? What you REALLY want of a teacher, is that he increases the abilities of his students as much as possible, during his course, in the course matter, no ? Of course, fair grading is ALSO a requirement, but that, by itself, will not do, will it ? Grading is an important, but only a minor, part of the job of the teacher. His main job is to TEACH, to transmit knowledge, ability, insight... in the course matter. His main job is NOT to evaluate how well you are doing (although he will NEED that information to adapt his teachings, and the student will need the information to know where he's standing). But it's just a tool. The goal is to increase the performance of the students in the course matter. So it is this performance which should be put in relationship to the reward for the teacher.

    Compare it to medicine. Imagine a way to reward doctors. Should a doctor be rewarded:
    1) wrt to the number of healthy people in his neighbourhood
    2) wrt to the accuracy with which he can predict that you are ill
    3) wrt his ability to cure you ?

    If you are going to couple teacher salary to the average test level, you go for 1). Clearly, it's better to be a doctor in a healthy place then.
    If you do your thing, you go for 2)
    The doctor I think, should get the best reward, is 3).


    I'm not talking about changing grading ! The tests should be anonymous, mixed, and the same for all of the "area" (with good and bad neighbourhoods) that is supposed to be seeing the same program. I'm only saying that the teacher who can INCREASE most of his student's abilities (not by his own grading, but by the gradings on the standardized tests) should be rewarded. As such, that will require, of him, to adapt his teachings to his public, so that they become as efficient as possible. It is of no use to give a high brow course to average students, who cannot follow. You will not give them a strong increase in performance by doing so. But it is also not very efficient to give an average-level course to high-brow students who could learn more: although they will give a correct performance on the exit test, they already had a bright performance on the entrance test, so you didn't INCREASE much their performance. If you have high-brow students, you should give a peppered-up course, pushing them to the limits (but not beyond) of their abilities. Then they will even excell better on their exit tests.

    Not normalizing the grading ! But in order to assess fairly the quality of the teacher (that is, to assess his ability to maximize performance increase), one should not use just the final performance level (which obviously depends on the initial performance level), or not even the difference between final and initial performance level, but also the difficulty at the task. A doctor who saves 8 cancer patients out of 10, is giving us a better performance than a doctor who can cure 9 patients out of 10 who had a cold (and that one is a better doctor than the one who had just 10 healthy patients).

    Again, the TESTS and their grading should be the same for all (best by anonimity, and double blind double or triple grading). And they should be very well designed, testing all the essential abilities of the students in the course matter, and even presenting them with harder problems than they are supposed to be able to handle, so that you can discriminate bright students. No student should be able to solve all of the test material correctly, and all students should be able to solve a minimum of it. It should be quite extensive tests.

    For instance, after first grade, it should go from writing down all letters, over to simple reading and writing of words, some simple grammar questions, and even go to reading of several small texts with comprehensive questions, dictation of words and sentences, writing of a small text,... All the requested abilities of the reading/writing/comprehension should be tested, a bit below and a bit above the required level. It should take one or two days, and the test should be carefully designed.
     
  13. Feb 2, 2006 #12
    That might be a good thing, but it might not. You do actually learn so important things in your education curriculum at university. College profs do not have to deal with the same problems that Elementary, Middle and High School teachers have to deal with. Subject knowledge is one thing, classroom management is completely different.

    In Michigan, you need to have a major in a subject in order to teach it more than 2 hours a day, and a minor to just be able to teach it. NCLB has made that happen (one of the good things). NY State (I believe) requires all teachers to get a masters degree with in 5 years of initial certification (not sure if it has to be subject specific).
     
  14. Feb 2, 2006 #13
    You are aware that there is a huge difference between investments and economics. Sure they are related, but understanding the stock market is not necessary to understand economic theory, or even market theory (Which is the theory on which mutual funds are based).
     
  15. Feb 2, 2006 #14
    Oh lord... not that plan for the destruction of education again.

    1) Too much standardized testing a BAD because kids will never get a chance to learn to think.

    2) all those conditions creates a HUGE and convoluted bureaucracy.

    3) lots of other badness I Think was played out quite well in the thread linked to by you.
     
  16. Feb 2, 2006 #15
    I THINK you know nothing.

    I do not know where you are from, but in Michigan, you need a major and a minor. you have always needed a major and a minor, since the beginning of standards based teacher education in Michigan.
     
  17. Feb 2, 2006 #16
    The solution to education is a higher amount of rigor, and a tighter eye on what teachers are doing as far as assignments and grading.

    make sure the curriculum is sufficiently tough, have a lower track for students who fail out of the normal coursework.

    If you hold the expectations for students higher, they will rise to the challenge. you do not need testing every year, or all that garbage from bomba which reminds me of a political solution rather than a solution based on any theory of teaching.

    Lets teach the kids to think, teach them how to learn, raise the rigor of the course work, and make sure teachers are not being to easy.
     
  18. Feb 2, 2006 #17

    BobG

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    Why would this be true?

    When you're developing a plan of instruction, surely you have to know what goals you hope the instruction will meet. Otherwise, why are you developing a course in the first place? It seems to me that the tests should flow pretty logically from the goals you hoped to achieve in the first place.

    There is a limit, though. You don't want to spend more money and effort testing than you do teaching. It's hard to develop a good test for large populations since you don't want to spend huge amounts of time grading the test. The standardized tests (SAT, ACT, various state standardized tests to measure student/school achievement) wind up having to compromise for costs and only measure whether a student posesses the basic tools vs. whether they know how to use them.

    That limit shouldn't apply to local schools. The tests for a subject within a school (or school system) should be standardized and should measure more than just basic knowledge. It doesn't do much good for a lousy teacher to only test the things they were able to teach their student. The shortcomings just show up in the next course the student takes.
     
  19. Feb 2, 2006 #18

    Pengwuino

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    Let me remind folks that we are not looking for beauty pagent/politicians speech answers.
     
  20. Feb 2, 2006 #19

    Pengwuino

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    I'm not from Michigan. Most people are not from michigan. Most people do not live in Michigan. All i know is here, you don't need a BA or BS. My friend is from florida so god knows what they need down there. I also would find it utterly rediculous if someone did achieve a bachelors in economics yet had never heard of a mutual fund and even more rediculous if they had never heard of a CD. It would be like achieving a physics degree without knowing who Maxwell was.
     
  21. Feb 2, 2006 #20
    Simple, Standardized testing causes a shift away from student centered methods of instruction (BTW, there is always a need for teacher centered methods) which teach students to build their knowledge and understanding, and make use of conceptual learning so, when students get older, they know how to think critically and can learn independently.

    The shift away from student centered methods occurs because standardized tests focus (by nature) on factual knowledge (the sky is blue because of the refraction of the light, the square root of 2 is irrational) rather than conceptual understanding (what does it mean that the light is refracted, what is an irrational number). Because of the need for factual knowledge, scores are higher on schools that make use of teacher centered, memorization type curriculums.

    It is bad enough with tests every 4 years or so, but having to have tests every single year will virtually guarantee that all student centered approaches to learning will be useless if the focus of the school is to get the kids to pass the test rather than understand the information.
     
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