General Question

deaddolly's avatar

Is the educational system in America doing it's job for our young people?

Asked by deaddolly (3406points) September 30th, 2008

Are kid’s being pushed too much, too little, enough? Things seem to be much, much more advanced than when I was in school, yet we’re still behind countries like Japan in our education levels. What do you think?

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92 Answers

scamp's avatar

I think there is much room for improvement.

marinelife's avatar


The total system needs to revamped to take into account learning styles and brain development, and to be brought into the 21st century.

Physical educations, the arts, and music need to be reinstated.

Technology needs to be incorporated more fully into the educational system.

Parents need to be retrained to be positively involved and not be threatenting teachers to have grades changed “lest their child’s future be ruined.”

I think commissions of parents, teachers and educational experts should convene under a national mandate, but locally. Then, ideas should be generated, tested against past performance, new ideas should be tried in small local experiments.

Once results were determined, groups of best practices should be established until the systems have been sufficiently revamped and education improved.

Bri_L's avatar


See Marina’s Post

Judi's avatar

Uhh, Like, maps, ya know, in places like Iraq and like,... South Aferica, we should help them, so they might , ya know get school and know things.

PupnTaco's avatar

Apparently not. “Its” and “kids” are plural, not possessive.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Anyway, I think our education focuses way too much on standardized tests and not enough on a well-rounded education. And the state of urban/poor education is atrocious.

If I were king…

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@PupnTaco: King? Dream bigger – think God. ;)

fireside's avatar

Critical thinking, Math and Science are areas where we need to improve.

deaddolly's avatar

@pupntaco I don’t take things like writing in a collective blog seriously I guess. I keep forgeeting the ppl that love to correct everyone for their stupid mistakes. Pardon moi, King Taco, if I don’t give a rat’s ass
where the ’ goes. lol

scamp's avatar

@deaddolly lol, and kudos for your snappy comeback. PupnTaco’s scolding was pretty comical too. I won’t soon “forgeet” it.Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I’m just playing with you both!

deaddolly's avatar

forgive and forgeet…

Dorkgirl's avatar

The average student in the US spends only 180 days in the classroom each year. Globally this number is 200 days and in Japan it is 243 days per year. Our kids do not spend enough time in the classroom and then the time they spend there is devoted to teaching them how to pass the standardized tests that show they know stuff rather than giving them real world skills that can take them from the classroom to the job market.
Our school districts tend to be underfunded, in need of more teachers, fewer administrators, more books, more practical classes (whatever happened to shop class or home ec or welding?). Not every kid is going to college, so we need to give those kids the skills they need to be functional outside of a college education.
I watched as my son “learned” to spell through the “Guess & Go” process, and he still can’t spell worth a damn even with spell check!
The American school system has let our students down.

Bri_L's avatar

I would like to add that the system is bogged down with teachers who are riding out their time behind a union that supports them. Whatever spark they had is gone, but it is virtually impossible to fire them. Even if their activity is criminal. They can be passed from school to school without report.

In the mean time while there are tons of people and teachers who desperately want to help and teach our youth. Who have a passion for trying to help. I personally know 14 such people. I can’t believe the stories they tell. Not just about the system the fight but the parents they fight as well.

PupnTaco's avatar

@ DD: Sorry if you were upset by that comment. I just thought it was an amusing error given your question was about the failure of the educational system.

deaddolly's avatar

@pup i wasn’t upset in THAT way…just sick of ppl pointing out useless things. no problem…lol

Bri_L's avatar

slightly on that topic but off thread I was at a networking gathering where one of the speakers said no less than 7 times how much she loathed spelling errors and she had zero tolerance for them etc. Yet she was unable to string 2 coherent sentences together at a time. She started and stopped and ummed her way through the whole speaking engagement. She also used the term “like” every 4th sentence as if she were a 13 year old.

Sometimes I think there is a little to much focus on some things.

cooksalot's avatar

Lets see. We’ll teach the kids to pass the test and not worry about the rest.
YES! I think the education system seriously failing our kids. They aren’t learning about life. Just passing the test.
I’ll get off my homeschool soap box now.

deaddolly's avatar

@bri L….exactly. In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter who spells what. Everyone knows what the person is trying to say.

Bri_L's avatar

@thanks Dead

And I understand that spelling counts. I get it. But spell checker is not full proof.

I didn’t jump up and say “so it is like that but not really that” every time she said “like”.

srmorgan's avatar

My wife is a middle-school teacher. Her major complaint is about parents, not the kids.
Neglectful parents, uninterested parents, “parents who think their snowflakes do no wrong and the school system is always at fault”.
Today’s story is: the school system purchased new social studies books for the 6th graders. Cost of each book -$56.00. They purchased just enough, one for each student. A girl in one of her classes has taken to sitting in class, book open but she is not reading, scribbling on the cover and pages in both pencil and ink and ignoring instructions to stop.
Assistant principal calls the father who sees absolutely no problem with this and in effect blows the principal off.

What do you do? The school can not bill the parent for the book and even if they could, the bill would not get paid anyway. Removing the book? Every student is entitled to a book even if they destroy it. When I was in high school we used to call this Catch-22.

Last week’s story. A kid is in 8th grade, not a bad student but not a great one. Comes from a good home, parents are college-educated, one parent is a medical professional.

Parents talk principal into letting kid take 8th grade algebra, an advanced class cause they usually take in 9th grade at the high school.
Three weeks into the semester it is clear to the faculty members and supervisors that the kid is just not ready for Algebra and that he is going to go down in flames if he continues in the class.

Problem:, yup the parents, they can’t believe the kid does not belong in advanced mathematics. They won’t consent. In the meantime the kid is telling the teacher and a teacher aide that even he knows he is in over his head.
Result: 3 1/2 hour meeting, 2 parents, the kid, one of the kid’s siblings who is in high school and four professionals from the school and the central office.

End result: kid goes back to regular math, he’s happy, teacher
is happy (not because the kid is disruptive, just because the kid could not keep up) administration is happy, parents are still grumbling.

I get an earful of this almost every night at dinner.

As to Bri_L’s cmment about sclerotic personnel practices in school systems, I think that you are off base. At least not as far as I can see in my small city in the southeast.

All three of my children went throgh the public school system here. One is still in high school, the others have graduated. Some teachers are better than others, that is human nature. ‘But in elementary and middle school, I found every single instructor to be caring, attentive to the needs of my children (one is learning-disabled), knowlodgeable and the word dedicated can be used to describe a lot of them.
In high school, there were a couple of duds….

It is not just and only the teachers causing the problem, no matter what the Wall Street Journal editorial page might be suggesting.


Bri_L's avatar

@srmorgan – I didn’t mean to imply it was just the teachers, although I know that is just what I did. Sorry about that. The 14 teachers I know all have multiple stories each just like your wife’s. In fact I would say it is more the parents than the teachers. My friends experience is they almost expect them to raise their kids.

So I am glad you pointed that out. I think I had some bad experiences as a kid.

But there are also teachers out there who are not good. Those same 14 friends have complaints about working with burnt out ride outs who are using union backing to make it to retirement.

St.George's avatar

No…and I wish ya’ll would quit asking the education questions. I am compelled to answer them and I just don’t have the energy.

What @Marina says, sums it up beautifully. Thank you Marina…

srmorgan's avatar

I did mention that some of the teachers my kids encountered in high school were duds.
No group of individuals is going to be without a few bad apples.
But the oft-cited comment that over-the-hill teachers who can’t b dismissed are clogging up the school system is one of those off-hand comment that has been so often repeated that it begins to have the semblance of truth.

As I write this I keep thinking of examples of the duds:
the so-badly hated chemistry teacher whose soda or iced-tea was spiked with liquid detergent by a pair of 9th graders. The kids spent a month on suspension, the teacher was so traumatized that she went on disability and the rest of the class had the benefit of being rid of her.


Bri_L's avatar

@ srmorgan I didn’t say over the hill. I said burnt out. That can be over the hill. That can also be wrong for the job. That can be taking advantage of the Job.

The fact that your wife has stories doesn’t mean my point is invalid. I have 3 specific Articles / studies that I will find to make my point.

I tried to tell you I agreed with you and saw you point but you obviously felt you needed to keep making your point.

We will let the statistics speak now.

sacaver's avatar

My wife walked away from teaching this past June. She was done with it. The main thing that killed that spark within her was

1. parents
2. administration

As has been mentioned here already, parents can be out of control. “Helicopter Parents” is the best term I’ve seen used to describe them. My wife taught at a rather rich school, so the second that Bobby/Betty Badstudent got sent to the office, you could rest assured that Mom/Dad & perhaps even their attorney would be quick to follow.

The administration had all the spine of a sponge. As soon as things got heated, they cowered down and brushed everything aside. Once the kids see how the “system” works, they know that all they need do is cry foul and their poor behavior will be rewarded.

This further leads to an erosion of any sense of consequence for actions taken. This same district came up with a policy whereby teachers were strongly encouraged to not give deadlines to assignments. If a student failed to turn in work on time, the teacher was to give the student another chance. If they again failed to turn in the work, give them another chance. What the hell does this do? It teaches a student that there’s little consequence to their actions. How many of you reading this have this type of luxury with your current employment? The consequence in working life for not fulfilling deadlines is a pink slip. No do-overs. No rescue.

So, is the education system in America doing its job? I’d give it a grade of 50, but then again, such negativity is demeaning and might cause trouble. I best just say it’s “passing” and let someone else deal with it.

tWrex's avatar

No it’s not. We spend more on education in this country than any other nation in the world (and while that comparison is true, it also needs to be accounted for that we have way more students here in the us and are a much larger landmass than other countries so those statistics should be taken into account), yet where is most of that money spent? Administrators. Have you seen what a Principal or a Superintendent gets paid? It’s ridiculous!

Buuuut. A great deal of the problem comes from the parents – if not all. While there are teachers that need to be outmoded and the union sucks, a large part of the responsibility lies on the parent to make sure their kids are doing what they should be! My wife is a TA and can relate to many of the stories that are told here. It’s disgusting. I feel like parents have given up on their children. I see it with my in-laws every day. “Did you do your homework?” “Yeah.” “Ok.” What kind of dialogue is that? You need to ask: what was it, when did you do it and can I see it, because these are the same kids that bring home D’s and act like it’s the teachers fault and they’re owed something.

On that note! The grading system is also fatally flawed. We have come to believe in this country that if you don’t have an “A” you’re not up to par. Wait what? A’s are for outstanding grades. B’s are for above average and C’s are for average students. When did we put so much focus on curving grades and dumbing down the classrooms to get these kids to have A’s? And the fault is not just with the schooling system, it’s with the parents who EXPECT these kids to get A’s! I understand pushing students to try to achieve this goal, but expecting every one to get it or, more importantly, making it so that every student does is asinine.

I also think that a great deal of these students do act like they’re owed something. Like they deserve something and I don’t know where this self centered and ignorant ideology has come from, but I swear it has trickled into every single last kid in this God-forsaken society. You have to do something to be owed anything. Furthermore, you earn a grade. Teachers don’t give them to you.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@cooksalot Me TOO! Yet, the people that write the Q’s and post don’t really want to hear it. Watch..they’ll feel compelled to mention our how are kids must be unsocialized (if I hear that word again!;). My son is extremely outgoing for his age. I also constantly am told he’s “so polite & well mannered”.

Yes, the questions you have about the Nation’s public school system, DeadDolly are many of the reasons there are about 2 million home schooled children in the USA, and why this movement is growing by 7–15% each year.

My husband & I visited the two schools within walking distance from our home when our son was about 1&1/2. We had already begun ‘teaching’ him at home and wanted to make wise decisions about what directions to go in the way of home curriculum (with our aim towards his attending either school and fitting well into their setting). After listening to the curriculum, the tests he’d be taking, and meeting with parents and kids he’d be exposed to,-etc we opted to keep him home until age 6. (many parents around here are PUSHING for early kindergarten & use school as a ‘free’ babysitter)

Then, as we continued for another year, we realized, with as advanced as his vocabulary is, his reasoning skills-etc, we’d continue on with home schooling.

I digress. Homeschool parents would gladly tell you they spend $2000 or less to educate their child per annuum. They never stop looking for ways to educate their children. And, their children do not have the “learning is a bore” mentallity.

Look into what your district is spending per kid…then look at the US #‘s then look at what the best educated countries (in most areas we’re spending more than the countries achieving more)In our district for grade school it’s upwards of $12K per child.

I am in no way suggesting everyone yank their kids out of school and begin a home school program. To make change happen, concerned parents/citizens need to question their school boards and begin delving deeper into what they are getting for their money, and why the school system is still ‘teaching for tests’ when all studies prove this is not helping our Nation’s students succeed.

Darwin's avatar

Actually, the majority of the problems we have had with our local school district is with administrators who deliberately misconstrue what a particular child needs in the interest of a) saving money, b) saving effort, and/or c) shoring up their personal belief that the only disabilities that exist are physical ones that you can see (and that ALL field trips are unnecessary).

I can count on one hand the number of bad teachers either of my kids have had – the one that shoved a 4th grade student into a wall and screamed at him, the one that insisted on snapping bra straps on 12 and 13 yo girls, the one from Trinidad that refused to look at any one directly and never stopped to answer questions, and the coach that single-handedly destroyed the entire girls basketball program in one year (at least she was fired).

However, fully 50% of principals we have dealt with have been really awful, deliberately ignoring the needs of children and unlawfully ignoring the consensus of the ARD committee. The other 50% have ranged from OK to wonderful, but the awful ones can really ruin education for a lot of kids, parents and teachers.

Our solution, the only one left to us with this most recent truly terrible principal, was to get a lawyer and sue. Even though there is a binding contract now between the district and us, she still tries to ignore it.

cooksalot's avatar

Another thing @SpatzieLover I have dealt with homeschooling in 3 different states now and in every state they can’t figure out why the homeschooled children are scoring 10% or higher above the best of the public schooled kids. Then they go “oh we need to teach these kids to score higher.” Only thing is without teaching them critical thinking and reasoning they just can’t seem to get the scores they need for that No Child Left Behind requirement.

cooksalot's avatar

Also @tWrex I so agree with you that the administrators are draining the public school funds. In Oregon and Washington the teachers are buying school supplies out of their own pockets since the schools don’t have enough money for supplies. BUT! at least one of the superintendents of an unspecified school district earns more than the President of the United States! Meanwhile some teacher is buying paints for her students out of her own paycheck. Does that sound fishy or what?! It stunk to high heaven to me when the pay was disclosed to the public.

tWrex's avatar

I’ll try to find the site, but I know that here in Illinois you can see what every single person in a public school makes. I’m not sure if it’s a nationwide thing or not. The wife knows. I’ll post back when I find it. Until I saw it I never would have thought that Principals got paid so much!

deaddolly's avatar

I did not mean to infer home schooling wasn’t great for your situation. In my experience, and I’ve strangely enough met a lot of kids that were home schooled, they were ot well-equppied to deal with the variety of ppl and circumstances that life put them in the midst of. It is totally up to a family to decide.
I myself, would never do it because even tho it hasn’t been easy for my child at times; she’s learned more being in school with other ppl than I could ever teach her. She did, however, go to both a private grade and private high school. I was lucky to be able to give her that education. I would not have put her in the public school system in Milwaukee; I never considered it. Both of my nieces are teachers, as are many close friends. What they face is unreal. And I blame parents and administration as well. Parents who let the schools raise their children. Parents who send kids to school with no supplies or even a winter coat; yet they all have cell phones.
I think the entire public school system is messed up. and it seems like everyone else does as well.
So what’s it going to take to change things? Or will the dumbing of America be commonplace?

Bri_L's avatar

I want to make it clear that I conceded that I was out of line by implying the issue was just individual teachers.

I would like to point out that everyone here is going to have experiences unique to their geographic local, their involvement in the system, that is to say wether they are a teacher or are married to one or know one, wether they have kids in the system or not etc.

In the end I think it is fair to say the solution lies across all the areas. The administration, the teachers, the students and the parents.

The parents have to prepare the kids to be in school. To be respectful. That school is their “job”. Work with them. Follow up with them. Make them realize it is not “out of site out of mind” when they leave the house and that there are consequences for not working hard.

The kids have to know they are not going to be spoon fed. They must take an active part in their education and that they have willing active excited teachers who are there to help them.

The teachers need to be given the necessary time, tools and backing to do their jobs and for gods sakes pay them a livable wage. And where there is corruption in the administration or union or with a teacher there has to be a means for weeding the problem out so the good do not suffer as srmorgan pointed out happens.

The administration needs to not have its hands tied to the point where they have to choose between books that take history up to president Bush Sr. or Art class or paying his teachers or getting a leak fixed in the hall way.

I wonder if studies have been done as to what can be drawn from the benefits of home schooling. I am sure smaller class sizes. But what could be applied to our class rooms.

NVOldGuy's avatar

After 30 years in the classroom – What I saw
Principal to teacher,“The tests you give don’t count on your evaluation.” After the test,“We think you may want to try harder to get these kids better grades.”
Vice principal to teacher “You can’t keep this kid back he’s been retained twice before.”
Principal to teacher, “I don;t think we need to make a big deal out of him bringing a hunting knife to school his parents are nice people.”
Parent to teacher,” He’s a good kid, he just didn’t understand it wasn’t an open book test. I assume you will let him make the test up because he wasn’t cheating.”
I’m sure every teacher has story after story of what’s wrong with the system.
Bad teacher? What’s wrong with the principal? NO GUTS! Teacher unions? Look at contracts.
I don’t understand why parents put up with what’s going on in schools. If parents are concerned why not do something about it. If there is a kid who is holding up learning, call, write, email or better yet call the ACLU and demand something be done.
For years I told parents to call the school board if they wanted to change things. Things can change but it takes effort. Teachers are the lowest on the “listen to list” or any other list.
If parents take a stand, things can change.
I’m one of those teachers who just got too tired to listen to it all.
I was one of those hated union guys. I had to listen to principals explain teachers were coming late and we had to do something about it. Two were coming late but I was to talk to one (I explained to the principal his job was to talk to the teachers) I checker later, he talked to one (never late again) but the other was the wife of a good friend.
Problems? You bet! Stop blaming unions. Take a minute to talk to the teacher’s union in your district. My guess is you will find much to agree on. I worked with many parents who had no idea what a union could or couldn’t do. Take a good look at what school boards are doing to your schools.
This is too long but it’s a topic I lived with for 30 years. I’ve heard it all and got blamed for much.
People don’t get it. The schools are yours. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Bri_L's avatar

I still feel that it is a problem to be solved by all the people involved, including teachers.

NVOldGuy's avatar

Of course teachers should be involved. Believe it or not most teachers are parents. My point was teachers are just about the last people school boards listen to. No matter what teachers say, they are looked at as self serving slackers who need to be put in their place.

Bri_L's avatar

That, is just not right. No more right than the few bad apples spoiling the bunch. For teachers, students or parents. But definitely for teachers who seem to get the worst rap.

deaddolly's avatar

And the teachers are the ones who are underpaid….as are the day care providers.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@Deaddolly and others…What will change it? Ultimately it comes down to the parents. As you can see from the above posts most are frustrated by the “teaching to test”. Here’s the problem, the ones willing to fight get exhusted by the insiders not wanting the boat rocked, the ones that INSIST the more money spent will equal a better education, and the ones not answering the studies proving the system is failing.

Teachers in my district are well paid, but in Milwaukee and other cities it’s a joke. And, the fact that so much comes out of pocket is even worse. Why can’t they submit some of these expenses? That comes down to the OVER paid higher ups…here, they’re paid WAY too much.

There are two moms in my Village (that I know of) that recently quit teaching primary schools, and now home school their children.
Both of them blamed the parents for their lack of responsibility, wanting the teacher to babysit, teach morals, but not call them to discipline-etc.

Another friend of mine retired (she’d been teacher of the year when she could no longer handle the politics nor the parents. She now tutors full-time.

The entire system needs an over-haul. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’ll happen if we leave it up to the gov’t. But, I do think we could see change if more people like Bill & Melinda Gates continuecreating their own schools (some celebs are doing this in inner cities, too and creating real change).

deaddolly's avatar

I don’t know what will change it. a complete overhaul is needed.
Many ppl are heading towards privately owned or religious schools…but they’re costly. I hate that my tax dollars go to a school system i never used. And that the kids coming out of there can barely read.

SpatzieLover's avatar

The parochial schools around me are JUST as bad if not WORSE. Their under the veil, yet are selling babysitting to get enrollment up. One has 3yr ALL day Kindergarten, the other has all day 4K, but also offers an after school program…You can have your TODDLER in the school’s care from 6:45 am til 6:30 pm and it’ll only cost you about $2500. Much cheaper than pre-school.

Judi's avatar

I’m going to duck when I say this, but the voucher system was my idea before the Republicans hyjacked it. As a good democrat I am waiting for the rotting vegetables to fly. When I was in college (back in the olden days) I got federal money (a grant) to help pay for my education in a Christian College. I wondered then, why they couldn’t do it for childrens education too. It would force competitiveness. One answer I got was that there would be no incentive to go to bad neighborhoods. My answer was that rent was cheaper in bad neighborhoods and it could be more profitable. I am not smart enough to see the entire big picture, but where I stand it makes sense.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Vouchers and other inner city busing to the ‘burbs exists here. It’s not helping anyone.

The kids in the ‘burbs never fully accept the city kids into their social circle…it’s an us vs. them thing. Then, there’s the fact that the kids are on buses fro up to an hour a day. Plus, here we have some charter schools in the city doing as well as our supposedly GREAT district.

Tommy Thompson enacted this in WI very early on.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@cooksalot, we have the same thing going on here. Whenever somone brings up the fact that we’re spending less and getting higher results their argument goes right back to test scores, and how they’ll need to ‘reteach’ the teachers (as if this is all their fault) to get those scores up.

Talk about rhetoric.

deaddolly's avatar

I was never for busing kids half way across town…it’s stupid.
And I never qualified for any of Thompson’s programs. It’s just a band aid over an issue that’s only getting worse. The number of kids w/o dipolmas is getting scary in the inner city. The majority of my employees don’t have one…but they still can become CNA’s.
I feel like the US is doing such an injustice to both our teachers and our young people. How does Japan do it?

cooksalot's avatar

@Spatzie in Washington and Oregon I think almost 40% of the homeschoolers were “School Teacher Dropouts” for no better way to put it. When it came time to put their own kids into the public school system they decided that the system was changing so much that even they were beginning to not like teaching so they homeschooled. That is one of the ways I learned about the teach to pass the test that the schools were pushing.
That and a friend of mine who was all pro public school till she worked in administration. Around the third year she came over ranting about the superintendent pushing for the teachers to start getting the kids ready for the WASL. He wanted the teachers to drop all other teaching and to start teaching test questions.

cooksalot's avatar

@judi I’m not a big Bush supporter but I do remember at one time he tried to mention the vouchers and was shot down.

SpatzieLover's avatar

DD, Japan, Norway, Germany, China, Cuba——etc…(look at the link I had above)don’t dump one curriculum for another as quickly as we do here. Many teach only ONE type of Math principle ALL year. This ensures everyone comprhends it backwards and forwards. Most expose their students to their language through enjoyment reading and don’t TEST them on the make up nor spelling of their language until the kids are older. In other words, they do not teach to get test scores, they teach reasoning and thinking skills so their students can explain the concepts behind their lesssons.

@cooks—this dropping of all other lessons happens here,too. It’s a sick prcatice & I can’t believe so many parents let it go on without raising flags. It shows how uninvolved people are.

Judi's avatar

@cooksalot, that’s why I’m ducking! I am waiting for a rotten tomato to hit my head.

SpatzieLover's avatar

No tomatoes from me Judi. I understand the idea of it. But, it’s been in our state for too long. It’s not working! And, just like the ‘teach to test’, now that it’s in action and studied and proven to be ineffective at best, it’s not going anywhere because they’ve got the tax dollars for it, so by golly, let’s keep it there!

cooksalot's avatar

Face it @judi it was a good idea but without parents that really want to speak up it won’t happen no matter who mentions it. Talk about all that pay. Maybe we should call for a standard in pay for the School Superintendents and take that excess pay for the $700 billion bail out. Can you see the evil grin here. I bet then they would want to put it where it needs to go, back to the kids in school.

Judi's avatar

That’s one of the reasons I thought vouchers would be better. less levels of bureaucracy, more money for the teachers and classrooms. I realize that the idea may be a bit idealistic though.

Darwin's avatar

I personally am a great fan of Montessori teaching methods. These are based first of all on the Three Rs: Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for your Environment.

Secondly, they are based on the idea that everyone learns different subjects at different rates. The teacher’s job is to guide the kids into making and sticking to their weekly “plan of work,” fostering curiosity and self-starting while allowing each child to progress at their own rate.

One thing that Homeschooling has in common with Montessori methods is that students progress at their own rates. Another is that if a learning opportunity arises that isn’t on the syllabus for the day, students and teachers both are freely able to take advantage of it.

Additionally, almost everyone will learn better if they are in a class of two or three or even five students as opposed to 21 to 34 (depending on grade and district).

Finally, a vital reason why homeschoolers and Montessori kids score better on tests is that their parents are very involved in their schooling, either by doing it themselves (in my experience many Montessori parents actually become certified in Montessori methods) or by deliberately choosing a specific teaching method that may not be mainstream but that has been proven to work.

We had our kids in a Montessori school for as many grades as it covered, but unfortunately we are in a relatively small town and there simply isn’t a big enough population to support such a school all the way up through high school. But even with only a few years I can see the benefits that both of my children reaped.

My daughter would probably have done well in public school because of her personality and her likeability, but with a Montessori background, she is able to take those extra steps that make her a really top student. My son, on the other hand, has certain personality problems and learning disabilities due to brain damage at birth. There are many teachers who want to work with him in the ways that he needs, but there is far too often a principal who accuses him of malingering, being lazy, or being “bad,” and who considers me, his mother who knows him best, to be overly demanding.

I wasn’t always that way. In my naivete I began his public school career by helping his teachers every step of the way, being active as a school volunteer, supplying ideas and technology to help him and others like him to learn better, and being available at any time if the teacher had any concerns or needs at all. But then I ran into the principal who said, on tape, that she didn’t believe in disabilities she couldn’t see.

I tried to work with her while other parents threw up their hands and got lawyers but she was not willing to believe that any child would not benefit by simply working harder. The final straw was when, thanks to a summer program recommended by his 3rd grade teacher, we got him reading on grade level for the first time in his life. He returned to school in the Fall reading at 4.1, but the teacher who had worked so well with him was transferred out in the middle of the week, a brand new teacher stepped in specially hired by the principal, and by March he was reading back at a 2nd grade level. The principal and the teacher said it was my fault because “I wouldn’t let him read fiction.” (Say what?!)

So my next step (after the school lost him twice and then cheered when he had to be hospitalized for attempting suicide) was to go to the Superintendent. That at least got my son to a school and principal that really believed that some kids really don’t learn the same way as others. He did well there, getting a mix of As, Bs, and Cs, depending on his personal interest in a subject, and actually started gaining some lost ground in math and reading.

But then we went to middle school.

Yes, many of his teachers worked very hard with him and with me, but what it came down to was that the principal refused to allow any students to be “different” at her school in any way.

Once again he had to be hospitalized. This time talking to the head of Special Education helped us find a campus where my son had a chance. Unfortunately, they closed the unit in that school because the principal didn’t want “those students” on her campus. So once again I talked to the head of Special Ed, and once again he was moved to a new school.

However, in spite of all the hours and hours of work his teachers and I both put into his education, the principal at this next school insisted that “No Child Left Behind” meant that he had to sink or swim (or be transferred into the juvenile justice system) in classes of 30 7th grade students, with a 4th grade reading level and 3rd grade math.

Despite mettings with her, with his teachers, with Special Ed. and so on, nothing could sway her. So we got a lawyer and sued.

The result was a signed and binding agreement on how he was to be housed at the school and how he was to be taught, even requiring the district to assign an extra person to the school to work with him. So what does the principal do? She constantly reassigns his para so he is left with nothing once again. So its back to first calling the district to point out that they are in violation of the contract, and then to having to be at school daily to be sure he is getting what he needs.

You know, I wish with all my heart that my son could be an average kid. But he isn’t. I also wish with all my heart that those teachers who went the extra mile for him could be rewarded by more than my thanks. But they can’t. And I most assuredly wish to know why so many administrators seem to feel it is their duty to fight against the needs of kids who simply don’t fit into the range they consider normal.

Okay, now I am going to put my soap box away.

I will say in summation, however, that there was a reason in the “bad old days” that there were such things as vocational high schools and college-track versus job-track classrooms. Sure there were times when kids were mislabeled and put in a vocational track when they were fully capable and interested in going to college. On the other hand, we had a plentiful supply of plumbers, mechanics, and carpenters who were well-trained and successful in their careers.

sacaver's avatar

Don’t the European schools, and I’m mainly thinking of Germany here, have a system whereby at some point the student is tracked into either a university program or a vocation program? I remember my German professor in college talking about it. Does anyone have more info on this if true?

Seems to me that perhaps this would be a good way to start. Not every child is destined for college, but every child should at least get out of school with the tools needed to make themselves self-sufficient.

Judi's avatar

I know Princess Di went to the vocational track

SpatzieLover's avatar

A Scaver… YES! and, that’s the sort of method Bill & Melinda Gates are providing. However, they use an open model school and where the student gravitates helps the teachers know where the students interest lies.

And, this is how it was done in the US pre-1940’s…Boys left at grade 6 or 8, then either became “an apprentice kid” or took on a family profession, like farming, full-time. Girls could go on to graduate, stay home to help out/take on sewing/cleaning-etc.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Darwin, I couldn’t agree more with each and every bit of what you offered.

sacaver's avatar

@Spatzie, I’m pretty sure we’ve moved beyond the time when the women-folk stay at home and clean. At least I’d like to hope we have. I think any child should have available the opportunity to do whatever to the extent of their abilities, however, I admit that I’m at a loss to come up with a means by which they are directed into various paths. If not careful, I think we end up with something that I’m afraid resembles a caste system.

Where would a child such as Einstein be in such a system?

cooksalot's avatar

@Darwin you sound like someone that should have taken the homeschool route. You were there so much already. See the school tried to kill my son. Since he was the only child in anaphylaxis they just didn’t see why they should worry. It wasn’t their problem since none of the other kids were having the same reaction. Yes, I could have tried to see about moving him but the same nurse manned the 5 other elementary schools in the area. When she left me a voice mail that told me in no uncertain terms that she “didn’t want to hear about his problem much less see him anymore, and that it was my problem!” My husband said that’s it your homeschooling from now on!.
A year later we finally figured out what was wrong. The NUTS that were in the cookies, and trail mix that they were giving the students for snacks was the problem. He was so allergic to them that being in the same room made him swell up. Other students left nut oil residue on everything and their hands so when his skin made contact it literally blistered.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@sacaver, There are many stay-at-home homeschooling dads/. As a matter of fact, one lives down the block from me. He teaches his two kids. His wife and he began homeschooling while his OB/GYN military wife was being transfered constantly. Now that they’ve ‘settled’ they continue because they’ve seen first hand how much their children are excelling.

@cooks——my aunt works in our schoolsystem. She nearly died (code blue 5x) from the smell of the nuts. Our system has BANNED all nut products.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@sacaver, I forgot to mention that a majority of homeschoolers are HIGHLY educated. (college/grad school) Most of us have similar goals for our children, their success.

cooksalot's avatar

Well @sacaver in Washington State the homeschool students are required to either attend junior college or attend a vocational training school in their senior year. They don’t require it of the public school students. Just us homeschoolers. So then they can’t figure out why homeschoolers are getting college degrees and high school degrees at the same time. “You can’t do that!” they say. Hmmmm, wonder why the homeschoolers in that state are blowing the public school test scores out of the water. Could it be the fact that they’re going to college?

cooksalot's avatar

Correction on that in their High School years.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@cooks I just spoke with a mom of a 15yr old in college. Her daughter is blowing the collge kids out of the water!

sacaver's avatar

Uhm, that’s great with the homeschoolers, but I’m talking about the public school system. Blue ribbons all around if you can educate your own kids! There’s a good number of families who don’t have the resources to do so. The public school system is all they have.

Public school worked fine for me. It worked for my parents. It worked for my grandparents. In fact, the public school system apparently worked for a good many of us from about 1975 and back. We received an education. We can read. We can make coherent sentences and thoughts. We went to college or started in to the workforce and became successful. Public education obviously has worked in the past. So what’s the difference today? What are the solutions for the public school system?

and, no, we can’t all agree to throw up our hands and run away

Judi's avatar

We could start by making it a priority to teach kids to think instead of just trying to teach them to pass a test.

SpatzieLover's avatar

The thing is…it’s changed to “teach for Tests”. Plain and simple, the “No child left behind act” is hurting the entire system.

It’s become about teaching kids to pass standardized tests at the cost of their critical thinking a reasoning skills.

deaddolly's avatar

Yes, I never had the option of home schooling, being a single mom. Not that I would have ever done it.

Judi's avatar

Do private schools have to pass those standardized tests to keep their accredidation?

deaddolly's avatar

Yes, they do. I sent my daughter to private grade and high school. Best education I could have given her. Her high school was $8000 per year, but they challenged her and made her extrmemly well prepared for life in college. Money well spent.
Not all the teachers were perfect, but the good far outweighed the bad.

Judi's avatar

How did they manage the “No child left behind” stuff and still offer a first class education? Smaller class size? I know private school teachers usually are paid less.

Darwin's avatar

I didn’t have the option of homeschooling. Up until a few years ago I had to work just to pay the bills. Now I am care-giver for my husband and I am the focus of my son’s rage so I have neither the time nor the strength to homeschool. I know my limitations!

deaddolly's avatar

Not sure about teh ‘no child left behind’...I know there were a lot of kids there that got financial aid. And I know quite a few kids didn’t graduate due to thier failing a few subjects.
Class size was about the same—20–28 kids. Teachers were paid less than public schools. I think the school itself was a success because it offered a wide range of subjects and had different ‘mods’ that changed..which kept the kids interested.
Therewas definately something for everyone, tho they pushed college. There was a 97% rate for kids attending some sort of education after hs. Kids were given more responsiblity and held accountable. And there was more than one that was ‘asked to leave’ for problems with drugs etc.

Judi's avatar

@ dolly;
was it a religous school?

fireside's avatar

Knowing that the standardized test exists should be enough for the students and parents to set up a system for passing those tests. Everyone knows about the PSATs and SATs but it isn’t the sole focus of classroom time.

The standardized tests should just be basic understanding that everyone is expected to know, in addition to the rest of their course load. The problem is that the honus for the kids passing those tests has been passed on to the teachers.

If there are underperforming schools within that scenario, then there should be a separate fund set aside to enhance the education at those schools or districts somehow, but it shouldn’t be a nationwide focus on standardized tests because that will just bring the quality of education down in places where the system was working fine.

deaddolly's avatar

@judi Yes, it was. Though we chose it because ot it’s arts programs and the fact it was around the corner from our house. If she had gone to public school, she’d of been in a school in the ‘ghetto’ part of the city and would have had to have been bused. I life in what they call the ‘finger’ of Milwaukee…with two cities on either side of me, with their own school systems. She would have had to ‘apply’ to get to those public schools, and the better of the two was closed to non-residential students. The other was a 15 minute drive and would provide no transportation.

Someone on some major drugs designed the entire school system.

Bri_L's avatar

Wow! I live just outside milwaukee and we just had a bomb threat in our school.

They do have to put up with a level of volotility that most of us don’t at work.

rowenaz's avatar

No, and I think the in addition to the issue that new things are added, but nothing is taken out, mostly testing (each day there is a new test, none of the old tests are taken away) so how many assessments or tests do we need that show Jane can’t read? Make a limit of how much time can be spent on testing/assessment per week, and then ACTUALLY SPEND THE REST OF THE TIME ON LEARNING. Isn’t that a concept?

The other reason that I MYSELF FEEL that our education system isn’t doing it’s job, is because too many teachers use outdated methods from the 1900’s. The teacher shouldn’t be at the front of the room, having teacher fronted lessons with elementary school children sitting at desks. Everything we know about how children learn best – inquiry best, hands-on, NOISY, exploratory – practically none of it is used in our public schools. That is one real problem.

Another real problem is race and class. I know too many racist teachers who really believe that intelligence is based on color and wealth, and somehow they get away with perpetuating this crap year after year, ruining entire classes of students.

cooksalot's avatar

Private schools do not depend on government money to be run. It depends on the tuition that the parents pay. That is how they get around the no child left behind. No Child Left Behind does not apply to private schools since they can’t wave the $$ around and say do it my way or you get nothing.

Judi's avatar

@cooksalot Many are accredited though, and I was wondering if the accreditation organizations were asking for “no child left behind” standards to be met.

cooksalot's avatar

According to Portland Christian Schools NO! NO WAY! should I say.

deaddolly's avatar

The school we went to also depended on private donations from alumni, which there was a lot of. It’s a large school and has a very high success rate. The teachers that are there love the school. I really think it’s a combination of a lot of things to be a sucessful school: parents, teachers and a cirriculum that changes to the needs of the students.

NVOldGuy's avatar

I read many of the comments. Yes there are problems and yes there are answers. Where do you stand? It’s very easy to leave it to Joe or Jane or someone else. If parents took a stand, things could change. My experience in the classroom, I should do something about that trouble maker kid but not my kid, he/she is perfect. I lost faith not in the system but in parents. I never had a parent call me and ask why I didn’t do something about a kid who stood up in class, yelled go to hell then just walk out. Of course I was a bad teacher. I sure would never get merit pay either. If a parent would have asked, I would explain the kid was forced on me and I was told there was no place for him to go. Guess who took the heat? I threw him out and he was back the next day. I tried and that pretty well ended my teaching days. Why didn’t any parents ask? I rarely saw parents at a school board meetings. I take that back, every time the question of spending money for a football coach or a budget cut for sports there plenty of parents. I would have talked to any parent who asked what was going on. Yes, I was one of those union bad guys out there who would have loved an invite to a coffee group to answer questions. I still don’t think parents get it. Get out there and elect school boards that represent you.
If you think a teacher is bad or not doing the job, call or set up a meeting. Please don’t tell me about how the union will protect him/her. Any good union will protect the process. I’ve heard it all and it never changes. Things are bad, etc. I can’t count the number of times I asked a parent or parents if they were interested in running for the school board. “Are you crazy, I don’t have time for that”.
If you get a chance talk to one of those “bastard” union people. I’m willing to bet they have spent more time explaing to principals how to get rid of bad teachers than defending them.
Teachers are on the side of kids.

Bri_L's avatar

I believe what you say is true. No question. I also believe that there are stories from the administration side as well. And the parents side.

I have been as involved as I am allowed to be in my child’s education so far. Of course one is only in Senior Kindergarden and the other pre-school. I will continue to do so as time goes on.

Darwin's avatar

So here is a view from a parent:

I just spent yet another hour at my son’s school today, discussing him and his problems with his teachers. Once again I have a list of things they want me to do to make it possible for him to learn in spite of the principal and No Child Left Behind, including schedule an ARD meeting, remember to use certain terminology in the meeting, give our lawyer a heads-up, and get the right psychologist on board.

He is one of the kids who disrupt regular classes because he has brain damage to his frontal and right temporal lobes. Hence I have been working with school personnel to find a way for him to learn without keeping other kids from learning literally for years. However, thanks to NCLB every way we have found that is successful is destroyed by the principal, who uses it as justification for dismantling all special programs, both for the academically advanced and for those with learning problems. She wants him in regular classes all day, every day, with no one to ride herd on him or stop his tantrums before they start except for the teacher, who is also supposed to be teaching 30 students science or math or history.

While I know some parents who believe their child can do no wrong, I am not one of them. I know my son’s problems (all too well), but it is my job to prepare him so that at age 18 he will be able to get a job and make a decent life for himself. Because of my own income I must rely on the public school system to help me in this.

And yes, there are some wonderful teachers who do the very best they can for their students. However, there are a few bad ones and even worse, administrators and staff who make it as difficult as possible for the teachers who care.

cooksalot's avatar

Well that principal is the one with the mental defect. In Washington they figured out the way around NCLB. Label every child you can manage to label as having a learning disability. That way you get money for special education and those kids scores don’t count toward the NCLB. Another reason that we homeschool. One child would be labeled as having Gifted Child Syndrome. And yes they do label the kids in the gifted program with that. My other would have a reading, and speech disability. All so they can get the money and not have to worry about the score.
I have a friend that her daughter has been labeled with a inability to learn numbers disability. They labeled her other child with a speech disability, which he does have, but now they want to label him as OCD. Mean while several of my other friends are fighting with the school because they want to label all their kids as ADHD. Turns out one of the administrators let it slip that the school can get more money and exclude them from NCLB.

NVOldGuy's avatar

Darwin good for you hang in there. Parnets, get with the program. I can’t believe what parents will put up with. Believe it or not, you can do something about education in your community. Why fight with the school district? Have you heard of the term “recall”? As I have said before, I have heard it all. I also helped parents elect a board member. Parents don’t know their rights until they hold feet to the fire. School board members are elected. Some have used the position as a step up to bigger and better things. Some have used it for personel reasons. How about a group of parents using it to make policy for what a community wants. I do know there are bad teachers out there and some are just fed up with the system. Contact the local teacher union and talk to them. My bet is you will be on the same page. Parents are the key. Don’t get me wrong, I know there are good board members and principals etc. Good for them, but take a good look at your school district and see what’s right or wrong. Parents are the only people going to change education. Things are the way they are because good people didn’t rock the boat.

Darwin's avatar


Our district has been using NCLB to dismantle Special Ed. They use it as a way to insist that all kids be fully included and no kids get special treatment.

My son has all the labels and rightfully so, but if they are getting extra money for him what are they using it for? They fired 37 paras this summer! They got rid of the Resource Room over the summer so now the Resource Teacher has to run from class to class checking on kids! They are down to only two Behavior Improvement units out of 9 middle schools!

Whenever I drag in the folks at the top they say it isn’t supposed to be this way and fix things temporarily, but then the principal goes right back to destroying my son’s education.

cooksalot's avatar

Maybe you should just ask her why she insists on taking money away from the school? Then again I’m sure the local news station and news papers would be interested in this story. How the principle wants to put herself before the good of her students. Wanna see the school get a new principle? And have that one on a short leash. I bet that would do it. Evil aren’t I?

Darwin's avatar

OTOH, I can sue her again. That always makes the bigwigs downtown pay attention, especially if channel 10 gets wind of the fact that this would be the second suit in 18 months.

It costs them about $5000 just to have a mediation. If it goes to a hearing, then it costs even more and takes days out of their lives.

cooksalot's avatar

Oh yeah and definitely make sure that channel 10 gets wind of it.

pathfinder's avatar

if an education lose the chidren to be involve than the future for some people can be fatal reasolts.I want to say about it more.The education create the way of future.This can be minus or plas.In real live education is something extra for the profit in the shape of money.The another thing are live experience,skills that has been carry all live.Booth of them hide plas and minus in meaning..

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