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Featured What does the American educational system (K-12) teach well?

  1. Jan 10, 2017 #1

    StatGuy2000

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    Hi everyone! One of the things I read and hear about is how poorly the American educational system teach math or science (here I'm discussing about the K-12 system, not post-secondary education).

    I would like to pose the opposite question: what does the American educational system (K-12) teach well? What, to your knowledge or experience, do students graduating from the American educational system in general come away knowing best?

    Please note: Please keep this discussion about the American educational system as it is now. I do not want to read or hear about how great the schools were in the past -- no nostalgia allowed in this thread! (Nostalgia by its very nature is not an accurate reflection of "the past", whenever that past may be)
     
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  3. Jan 10, 2017 #2

    StatGuy2000

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    Moderator's note: I had placed this thread under Academic Guidance (since I'm asking about education), but please feel free to move this to a more appropriate sub-forum.
     
  4. Jan 10, 2017 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    Self-esteem, perhaps?
     
  5. Jan 10, 2017 #4

    StatGuy2000

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    I take it that you are assuming that (genuine) self-esteem can be taught.
     
  6. Jan 10, 2017 #5
    Football?

    I think the question is miscast.

    A system doesn't teach much.

    Individual teachers teach. Some teach well. Some teach poorly.

    The weakness in math and science is the lack of sufficient numbers of good math and science teachers.

    If a student gets a few good teachers, supported by good parents, students of ample diligence will learn well. Students who do not learn will not pass.

    By definition, a teacher who passes a student who is not proficient in the learning objectives is not a good teacher.

    The system mostly teaches that students can get by without really learning much. It teaches students how to game the system, and it teaches those lessons really, really well.
     
  7. Jan 10, 2017 #6

    StatGuy2000

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    You are certainly correct that a system by itself doesn't teach much, but it is a system that ensures that the good teachers (i.e. those that can impart the knowledge and inspire confidence and learning to students) can thrive in a given school system and that bad teachers get rooted out. It is also a system that ensures that a curriculum is taught appropriately.

    If a large number of students are (a) not learning what we as society think students should learn, and (b) there is evidence that students are "gaming the system", then that is a flaw in the system.
     
  8. Jan 10, 2017 #7
    Well, to avoid these ambiguities, let's find some data. Is there data that supports the idea that the U.S. is behind in math and science? Who are we behind? Who are we ahead of? Is this same data useful in answering your question?

    -Dave K
     
  9. Jan 10, 2017 #8
    Ya think? One has to be fairly incompetent at Algebra 1 and Geometry to manage a 19 on the math portion of the ACT, yet about half the students in Louisiana who have passed Algebra 1 and Geometry score a 19 or below. And yet those teachers who passed them keep collecting paychecks.
     
  10. Jan 10, 2017 #9

    StatGuy2000

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    But is the problem really (solely) to do with the teachers? After all, one could argue that, say, if a math teacher finds that a large number of his/her students do not have the necessary background or prerequisite to be in his/her class (math knowledge, after all, is cumulative) due to the impact of poor teaching in the past, what can he/she do? Fail most of the class? If he/she does so, then how can he/she explain this to the principal?

    There is also the issue of race and class as well, since African American and Hispanic students are much more likely to attend public schools where the majority of their classmates qualify as poor or low-income, based on a study by Stanford University looking at federal data. And I think it would be fair to say that students who come from poor or low-income families will face many further barriers in terms of academic achievement versus students who come from more advantageous backgrounds.

    http://cepa.stanford.edu/content/pa...and-socioeconomic-academic-achievement-gaps-1

    http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/concentration-poverty-american-schools/471414/
     
  11. Jan 10, 2017 #10

    StatGuy2000

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    With respect to your question, these links may provide some answers.

    http://www.oecd.org/pisa/

    The methodology used, as well as the results for 2012 for the US, can be found in the following Wikipedia article.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment#Method_of_testing
     
  12. Jan 10, 2017 #11
    Actually it is worse than this. Teachers are strongly discouraged from failing students no matter how bad they are doing.

    Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...uld-love-to-teach-but/?utm_term=.7eafb487852f

    Again the quote “They are not allowed to fail" is worth noting. It doesn't matter if it's because they aren't showing up, studying, or turning in work. They are not allowed to fail. I've had friends quit teaching over stuff like this. It's bad.

    -Dave K
     
  13. Jan 10, 2017 #12
    As honestly as possible.

    But of course. Students who are not competent in the learning objectives should not be passed. How is passing them blessing them or the next teacher along the line (or the employer)? All the teacher who passes them has taught them is they do not really need to learn to pass. Once they learn that lesson, how can the next teacher expect to be successful? They know they will pass either way.

    When I was an engineer, I developed test systems for wireless products. If a unit failed, it did not get shipped. Knowingly shipping it and billing the customer would be fraud. Blaming the quality of the incoming components is no excuse for fraud.

    Likewise, sending students along and billing the taxpayer is fraud, regardless of the quality of the materials one begins with.
     
  14. Jan 10, 2017 #13

    symbolipoint

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    What a district or an institution teaches well, depends on where and when, regardless of the specifications asked for in the first posting in this topic. A good portion of teachers are very well qualified to teach something such as Algebra 1, because of their having studied and learned so much Math beyond just "Algebra 1", as part of their earning some degree in not just Mathematics, but in Engineering, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science, and like that. These teachers can understand and apply their course outlines, their syllabus, advise their students beyond just what their textbook shows, and still, some students will be confused about Algebra 1.
     
  15. Jan 10, 2017 #14

    jasonRF

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    I couldn't agree more, although I would add that there are also effective schools and ineffective schools. I went to a mostly ineffective high school but had a few good teachers (including one very good math teacher my jr and sr years) and great family support. I now live in Massachusetts, and find that at least some of the schools here are much more effective than the one I attended. The level of essays my children are expected to write, and the amount of experimental science they get to do (at least from grades 8-12) is really wonderful.

    But if we are going to lump the entire educational system of the country together, I would say that overall we probably don't do anything really well across the board.
    jason
     
  16. Jan 10, 2017 #15

    Stephen Tashi

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    It's interesting how the thread has digressed to a different topic!

    I'd say the USA school systems teaches individualism, in the sense that it doesn't not impose a narrow set of cultural attitudes. Naturally, individualism is not an unmitigated virtue, but I find it preferable to educational systems that emphasize cultural uniformity or reverence for some dictator.
     
  17. Jan 11, 2017 #16

    vela

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    I know this isn't what you are really asking about, but one thing that American education system seem to be very good at teaching is that math is to be feared. At one school I teach at, there's a math anxiety workshop offered every semester to help students overcome their fear of the subject. I hear it from my astro students how having to work with numbers and simple algebra freaks them out (though they all seem to do well enough).
     
  18. Jan 11, 2017 #17

    phinds

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    Exactly. And this is precisely what the US education system is NOT and that is the fundamental reason why it teaches pretty much NOTHING well on a consistent basis. As has been said, individual teachers, particularly if working with motivated students who have a good home environment, can do wonders but even a good teacher is hard pressed to to much with a student that has been brought up with no respect for learning and it is particularly hard to do much in a system that does not reward good teachers or punish bad ones. AH, nuts. Don't get me started ...
     
  19. Jan 11, 2017 #18

    Bystander

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    From the movie "Clue," all surviving cast in unison, "Too late."
     
  20. Jan 11, 2017 #19

    Stephen Tashi

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    The USA educational system has done a good job at encouraging people to be critics!
     
  21. Jan 11, 2017 #20
    Absolutely. In my experience, the Air Force Academy is a very effective school. Hiring all of your graduates motivates quality like nothing else.

    When I interviewed for an internal promotion to an administrative faculty position, I told the committee that my philosophy would be to "Hire good faculty, give them everything they need, and stay out of their way." The inability and unwillingness of most academic institutions to do these three things guarantees they will remain ineffective schools.

    An effective school is nothing more than a collection of effective teachers. Most ineffective schools undermine the authority and the ability of potentially good teachers to do their jobs.
     
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