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Why do we need a US Department of Education?

By NickNielsen ·
Seems the states are working together and have built something worth talking about. I thought this would have been a federal initiative. Apparently, I was wrong.

The article - <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/07/21/national.learning.standards/index.html">National learning standards make the grade</a>

The study - <a href="http://edexcellence.net/index.cfm/news_the-state-of-state-standards-and-the-common-core-in-2010">The State of State Standards--and the Common Core--in 2010</a>

<a href="http://www.corestandards.org/">Common Core Standards</a>

So, why do we still need a US Department of Education?

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no idea

by Jaqui In reply to Why do we need a US Depar ...

since the rest of the world laughs at the dismal education that americans get.

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We haven't for at least 40 years

by JackOfAllTech In reply to Why do we need a US Depar ...

What may have started as a good thing quickly degraded into a lobbying group for the teachers union. It has actually caused the decline of achievement and true self-esteem of students and dumbed down and entire generation.

It's time to get rid of it and make teachers responsible for the quality of there performance and hold our children to much, much higher standards.

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DOE is not the cause of the problem

by mjwx In reply to We haven't for at least 4 ...

It's time to get rid of it and make teachers responsible for the quality of there performance and hold our children to much, much higher standards.

But how do you test that?

Without a central standard to benchmark against you'll never be able to effectively judge if a child is receiving an education at all let alone a good or a bad one.

Politicising of education is not a problem with the US DOE, it's just a symptom. The problem is the extreme politicising in US society. Removing the DOE will not make the politics go away, it will just make them find a new method of being a problem.

If you got lobby groups out of schools (and society in general), things like the Texas Textbook revision would not even happen.

Once you fix the societal problems the work of an actual education department can begin.
1. Setting the minimum standard of education with a "hands off" approach. Making sure each child can read, write and do the times tables is enough.
2. Supporting teachers and removing administrative road blocks. Helping with training, problem students and so forth.
3. Centralised core curriculum that gives students the skills they need. I'm thinking along the terms of Science, History, Math etc...
4. Making sure things are safe (buildings and so forth).
5. Using collective bargaining to get cheaper school supplies.

I'm sure there are others but these will do for now.

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Teachers should not be the target

by NickNielsen In reply to We haven't for at least 4 ...

For the life of public schools, teachers have been targeted when children fail. Over the past few decades, much has been made about so-called 'social' promotion where the child puts in the time and moves ahead, regardless of achievement. The root of that problem lies with parents who are not willing to accept that their child is not the best and brightest and will sometimes fail. This was aggravated by the 'self-esteem' movement's idiotic assumption that feeling good about yourself is independent of accomplishment. Finally, we were presented with No Child Left Behind, an act of law based on the fantastic assumption that all children will learn the same information at the same rate.

Teaching is one of the very few occupations where your measured success depends on the efforts of people over whom you have little or no control. The teacher's responsibility is to present the curriculum to the student and provide the initial motivation to learn; after that, it's up to the student to learn and to the parent to provide further motivation. The teacher must adjust the presentation to various learning speeds and styles, but that's the extent of responsibility; it doesn't sound like much, but this is where the teacher spends the bulk of time. We should not expect teachers to also be full-time social workers. Blaming the teacher for a student's failure to learn (and that's what we're doing, isn't it?) makes as much sense as blaming the driver's license examiner because Mommy can't drive.

How do we fix it? It will take a combination of actions. First, create tougher standards; the Common Core is a great start. Second, put the students in school long enough for them to learn those standards. The average school year in the US is about 180 days, with average class time of about 6 hours (or less). Of those 180 days, students lose time to field trips, illness, testing, other school activities, and detention or suspension due to poor behavior. In South Carolina, it's possible for a student to meet all annual attendance requirements and actually spend fewer than 140 days in the classroom. So the student spends a quarter of his day for less than half the year in the classroom, and we wonder why he doesn't learn?

We shall see how the tougher standards work, but the best way to make them work is to make both the school day and the school year longer. This works, demonstrably:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/22/AR2010062200009.html
http://educationalissues.suite101.com/article.cfm/longer_school_day_makes_gains
http://www.readingrockets.org/article/24556 (Note: This article references the two programs mentioned in the links above)

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*cheering from the crowd*

by boxfiddler Moderator In reply to Teachers should not be th ...
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I'd have to agree... we don't need the one we've got

by DelbertPGH In reply to Why do we need a US Depar ...

There's a lot that could be improved about U.S. education. If you've seen what kids study in France and Germany, you'd wonder what's wrong with us. However, a national department is never going to set policy for a zillion school boards around the country, or do away with the rights of a zillion boards. Most of the do-goodism you associate with the powers of a national department is just doomed to fail in real-life America.

You'll notice that the common core is adopted by only 25 states so far. It will win more adherents, but never all 50 states. And, each of the states has different limitations on how it can propogate those standards down to its own school boards. So, don't expect a uniform, nation-sweeping trend of improvement out of this.

I'd guess that most of these governors who got together on this were driven to it out of deperation. That's a different motivation than wanting to find the best way, or seeking incremental improvement.

The best thing a national office can do is to administer uniform tests so parents and officials can see how well their school and state compares to other places, and to support the teaching profession with grants to conduct studies and to travel to other places (France and Germany, e.g.) to see how they do it. But I don't think we need a cabinet-level office to do that.

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Every one of the 50 states sets K-12 education standards

by NickNielsen In reply to I'd have to agree... we d ...

Those standards are imposed on all school districts in that state. Even most private schools adhere to those standards.

But very few states were effectively measuring how well each district was meeting those standards.

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Why do we need local school boards?

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Why do we need a US Depar ...

I was recently disgusted to learn that the local board where I live commissions new designs for each new school. How many ways can there be to layout an elemetary school? If the plans were good enough for the school you build two years ago, why not reuse them for the one you're proposing now?

Why have multiple boards in the same county? What a waste of money on redundant adminstration. The local board in the town where I work has only four schools under, one at each level.

How much difference can there be between the goals for students at one end of a state vs. those at the other end? And if there is a big difference between what they're expect to learn, doesn't that indicate that one set of standards is either too low or two high?

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It's an addiction (and also, a few words about the French)

by DelbertPGH In reply to Why do we need local scho ...

We started out with local school boards because no other level of government thought it was appropriate or possible to raise and expend the money to run schools, and to run them properly. American education was conceived of as a locally-inspired, locally-financed, locally-supervised activity, standing independently of all other forms of government.

A lot of dreamy-eyed idealists think that this is the way all public governmental exercises should be... local methods, locally controled to suit local purposes, because all that is big is bad, because big drives out freedom. Maybe that's true, but one thing you get out of local control is mediocre education. Good quality becomes controversial.

In France, which is an example I keep coming back to because I know a lot about it from my wife and it is so different, they exercise central control to a degree that Americans would think is crazy. You can be assured that in all France from the north to the south, every kid is turning the same pages in the same books on the same day. Local school boards don't exist at all, and not just books but daily curriculum is decided at the top. Probably for more advanced high school courses there is greater flexibility, but only because it's very hard to standardize absolutely everything. The French test to a common national standard, too, and the tests are extremely important. When you're twelve you take a test that determines what high school track you'll go into: vocational or academic. Most go vocational; they graduate at age 16 and hit the work force. There's basically no going back; at 12 you find out if you will be a practically-minded worker or a book-learned decision maker for the rest of your life. The academic track splits between the humanities and the sciences; the student gets to choose his track, but his advisors are strongly influenced by his test scores. At the end of high school, which goes until age 18 or 19, you take a test called the baccalaureate (le bac), which if passed, is probably the equivalent of five semesters of American college. You have a couple of years to re-take it, if you fail. Most fail, and go into the work force in some paper-shuffling capacity, or selling cars, if they're lucky. Those who pass go on to college. French university is basically 100% state funded, but the college you get into is determined by nationally standardised tests (of course.) Interestingly, one college (ENA, or Ecole National d'Administration) is where you go if you will become a judge, a top bureaucrat, or a manager of a state enterprise. It sounds weird to Americans, but to the French mind, if you create a training program for your best, it is logical that you would staff your top positions all from graduates of that program.

My wife says that the French education develops the best in the best people, but the shortcoming is that if you screw up once, you are shunted onto a secondary career track that you will never leave. In America, she says, you get second chances.

I've looked at her school books; the geography book she had in sixth grade (before they break you into separate tracks) would be considered too challenging for most American high school students. (Come to think of it, they don't mess with geography in America any more.) It's really impressive. In fact, I doubt that a lot of American teachers would be competent to handle standard French curriculum.

In America, they don't try to develop the exceptional kids; they just aren't given any room. Yet in France, they manage to make challenging material available in the ordinary curriculum. It's an accomplishment. They also have a successful vocational program for the majority of the kids who just aren't going to gain anything from a college prep high school. In America, everybody gets the same education and the same opportunity, but the college prep is dumbed down so that everybody can get through it.

I can't say that I like the rigid tracking of the French, or their goofy faith in credentials. But, they do things we don't believe are possible.

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The rigidity may contribute to another issue

by NickNielsen In reply to It's an addiction (and al ...

I should think it would stifle many of those who would be innovators.

Don't fit the mold? Sorry, we'll take care of that problem.

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