Response to snot (Original post)
Sun Jun 16, 2013, 02:31 AM
mbperrin (7,414 posts)
4. I teach high school in Texas. Here are the answers for me.
Has the quality of public education really gone downhill since I was a kid, or is that a myth?
Strictly a myth. When I graduated in 1971 from the same school where I teach now, you needed 17 credits to graduate. There were no calculus classes, no second year chemistry or biology, no physics, no mandatory senior English, even. Now, 26 credits, which must include physics as one science plus three other sciences, 4 years of English, 4 years of math (and calculus is offered), and 4 years of social studies, including economics and government, which were a combined course back when, along the lines of be a good citizen and vote. So many more and much more rigorous classes are being taught and are mandatory for all students to take.
Have kids gotten harder to teach?
My kids, the "regular" kids, are harder to teach because they have poor socialization. Absent parents or working parents cannot sit down to supper and model behaviors for their kids, who get their social norms from their friends, TV, video games, and movies. Very difficult to transfer eating at McDonald's accompanied by screaming kids on the playground into attentive conversation at a fine restaurant or in the classroom. So, socialization, including eye contact, shaking hands, different speech registers and more, are about 1/4 of the curriculum now, and it pays large rewards to do that later in the courses.
Are parents working too hard to help their kids, or to notice if they're failing, let alone get involved with the PTA or pay attention to school board elections?
50% of the adults in my county over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma. They cannot assist in senior English homework, calculus, physics, economics, Biology II, or most other senior courses. Add to the lack of formal credential the following: 30% of my students live in households where the language spoken is other than English; 87% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch; half of the seniors work 40 hours a week in addition to attending school so that they can have nicer clothes, something to drive, a personal phone, and other things that adults should, but simply cannot, provide. There is no and never has been a PTA at our high school, and in the last school board elections a few weeks ago, 2200 people voted out of 44,000 registered voters in this county, and those 2200 votes were split among 4 positions. It literally takes more votes to become homecoming queen than to be elected to the school board here.
Are class sizes too big?
Not in the AP and IB program, where we have 6 or 7 students in a section. However, in the regular and inclusion side where I teach, 150 students is the GOAL of the administration for each teacher, but I teach more like 180 each semester (economics and government are one semester courses). There is an internal resegregation of schools that is not race-based, but income-based. Doctors kids, lawyers' kids, university professors' kids attend the small intimate classes of AP and IB, while everyone else functions in a larger enviroment.
Are populations more diverse?
Yes, and it's a good thing. My school was an all-white school in 1971, and we now benefit from many students of Mexican descent, students from Asian backgrounds, Pacific Islanders, black students, totaled together are now about 52% of the school, which is a nearly perfect mirror of the community.
In inflation-adjusted dollars, are we spending less per child than we were 50 years ago?
Never mind 50 years ago. LAST year, spending dropped nearly 15% per student with the cuts from the state of Texas. That's in current dollars. This year, about half of the total cut was restored, but with student population increases, it will actually be another 12% cut. So in just two years, we have cut per student spending by 25%.
What factors are actually different now from when they were back when public education was strong (at least, it was strong at my school when I was growing up)? What are the causes of those changes, if any?
When I was growing up, I didn't know anybody who had a mom work outside the home, nor did I know any divorced parents. 1972 was the peak oil production in the history of the US, and we live in the largest domestic oilfield, so wages were good, and I didn't know any kid who had a job of any kind during the school year. Some worked a bit in the summer for the experience, but that was it.
Now, nearly none of my students have a stay at home parent, big bunch are single parent households, and as I mentioned before, nearly half my students work full time.
How does the current system actually work? How are the administrators selected? Where is the union, what role has it played? How are union leaders selected?
The superintendent is selected by the school board, He or she selects all the other administrators based on recommendations from other administrators. Public employees do not have the right to strike nor to negotiate contracts in Texas, so the teacher associations and the one union (AFT) exist really to provide professional liability insurance for legal expenses.
What are the large and small, direct and indirect causes of the problems? We must be courageous in facing all the problems and all their causes, because we can't devise effective solutions until we understand those things.
The big thing is the impoverishment of the US population over the last 40 years - it's led to the financial pressures that wreck marriages, increase dependence on minimum wage jobs for every member of the household since waiting for more training means no electricity this month. This poverty and lack of availability for family leads to peer-led interactions without intermediation, so we have the highest unwed mother rate in Texas, the second highest rate of STDs for school kids, heavy drug use, not just of marijuana or inhalants, but readily available and cheap heroin, cocaine, and other opiates.
What are the real solutions? We do need you to help us identify real solutions, because if you don't offer any, others will.
Money. Money for families to afford family time. Money for students to actually attend class and devote time to school activities and school work. Money for resources to increase the number of teachers, bringing down class sizes. Money for students to have Internet connections or supplies for school projects - many of my students are precluded from the robotics program because the students themselves have to provide more than a thousand dollars worth of supplies each for the class - the district does nothing, because they don't have the money. And they don't.
Hope this helps.
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I teach high school in Texas. Here are the answers for me.
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