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Old Aug 7, 2013, 10:37 PM   #1
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Test Scores Sink as New York Adopts Tougher Benchmarks

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The number of New York students passing state reading and math exams dropped drastically this year, education officials reported on Wednesday, unsettling parents, principals and teachers and posing new challenges to a national effort to toughen academic standards.
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In New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the tests in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department.

The exams were some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as the Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving over short answers and memorization. Last year, under an easier test, 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math.

City and state officials spent months trying to steel the public for the grim figures. But when the results were released, many educators responded with shock that their students measured up so poorly against the new yardsticks of achievement.

Chrystina Russell, principal of Global Technology Preparatory in East Harlem, said she did not know what she would tell parents, who will receive scores for their children in late August. At her middle school, which serves a large population of students from poor families, 7 percent of students were rated proficient in English, and 10 percent in math. Last year, those numbers were 33 percent and 46 percent, respectively.

“Now we’re going to come out and tell everybody that they’ve accomplished nothing this year and we’ve been pedaling backward?” Ms. Russell said. “It’s depressing.”

Across the state, the downward shift was similar: 31 percent of students passed the exams in reading and math, compared with 55 percent in reading and 65 percent in math last year.

The Common Core standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia. Although not technically national standards, they are ardently backed by the Obama administration and education officials who contend that outdated and inconsistent guidelines leave students ill prepared for college and the work force. New York was one of the first states to develop tests based on the standards. Kentucky, the first state to do so, also reported plummeting scores.

Even with the drop in scores, New York City still outperformed the state’s other large school districts — in Rochester, for example, only 5 percent of students passed in reading and math. And despite its large number of disadvantaged students, New York City almost matched the state’s performance as a whole.

But striking gaps in achievement between black and Hispanic students and their counterparts persisted. In math, 15 percent of black students and 19 percent of Hispanic students passed the exam, compared with 50 percent of white students and 61 percent of Asian students.

Students with disadvantages struggled as well. On the English exam, 3 percent of nonnative speakers were deemed proficient, and 6 percent of students with disabilities passed.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/ny...ores.html?_r=0

We need to stop teaching to the test and actually educate our kids.
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Old Aug 7, 2013, 10:59 PM   #2
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We need to stop teaching to the test and actually educate our kids.
I understand what you are saying, but, if the test is very good, teaching to the test actually does educate. I think what you mean is that we need to stop teaching to tests that measure primarily rote memorization. It is difficult to tell from the results, though, how good the test is.

I wonder if anyone on this group has experience with the new Common Core tests? Do they actually measure deep understanding?

I would also be interested in how other countries compare on these tests. Are there countries where performance on the Common Core tests is much better? If so, I wonder what distinguishes those countries.
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Old Aug 7, 2013, 11:02 PM   #3
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I understand what you are saying, but, if the test is very good, teaching to the test actually does educate. I think what you mean is that we need to stop teaching to tests that measure primarily rote memorization. It is difficult to tell from the results, though, how good the test is.

I wonder if anyone on this group has experience with the new Common Core tests? Do they actually measure deep understanding?

I would also be interested in how other countries compare on these tests. Are there countries where performance on the Common Core tests is much better? If so, I wonder what distinguishes those countries.
We can't compare to other countries that go to school 6 days a week for 340 days a year. We will never beat Japan or India in education. We need to compare to the other 50 states first.

Plus the whole everyone needs to go to college mentality needs to stop, all it does if make colleges richer while doing nothing to help our students.

I also don't know how a test can measure deep understanding when everyone learns differently.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:13 AM   #4
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We can't compare to other countries that go to school 6 days a week for 340 days a year. We will never beat Japan or India in education. We need to compare to the other 50 states first.
Maybe I'm in a contrary mood, but, countries where students study 70 hours a week don't necessarily impress me. It is kind of like companies where people all claim to work 60-70 hours a week. I doubt if someone "working" 70 hours a week gets more done than someone who works 50 hours a week. Beyond a certain point, most people start to squeeze in all their personal business, because they have to, and, their brains are not going to produce more anyway. I'm going to hazard a guess that 50 hours a week of mental work, or, studying, is about all most people can produce no matter how many hours they "work".

I would also be willing to bet that a valid test of genuine deep understanding is going to go better for countries that work/study a reasonable number of hours, where the teachers have a better understanding themselves, and where the emphasis is on understanding rather than memorization.

For some reason, I'm guessing Scandinavian countries probably would excel, if there are comparable test results. Anybody know of any such tests?

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Plus the whole everyone needs to go to college mentality needs to stop, all it does if make colleges richer while doing nothing to help our students.
I'm not sure it is making colleges richer, but, unlike Lake Wobegon, in the real world all the children are not above average. It makes no sense for those who are not good at academics (or, if they aren't that good, at least love learning), to spend $100K+ in college.

On the other hand, education is a public good, and, a reasonable amount of education at a reasonable cost obviously pays off for society as a whole as well as the individual.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:24 AM   #5
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Maybe I'm in a contrary mood, but, countries where students study 70 hours a week don't necessarily impress me. It is kind of like companies where people all claim to work 60-70 hours a week. I doubt if someone "working" 70 hours a week gets more done than someone who works 50 hours a week. Beyond a certain point, most people start to squeeze in all their personal business, because they have to, and, their brains are not going to produce more anyway. I'm going to hazard a guess that 50 hours a week of mental work, or, studying, is about all most people can produce no matter how many hours they "work".

I would also be willing to bet that a valid test of genuine deep understanding is going to go better for countries that work/study a reasonable number of hours, where the teachers have a better understanding themselves, and where the emphasis is on understanding rather than memorization.

For some reason, I'm guessing Scandinavian countries probably would excel, if there are comparable test results. Anybody know of any such tests?



I'm not sure it is making colleges richer, but, unlike Lake Wobegon, in the real world all the children are not above average. It makes no sense for those who are not good at academics (or, if they aren't that good, at least love learning), to spend $100K+ in college.

On the other hand, education is a public good, and, a reasonable amount of education at a reasonable cost obviously pays off for society as a whole as well as the individual.
The point is that there are countries that have a stronger emphases on education that the US doesn't have. We need to compete with ourselves first before trying to out smart the rest of the world.

Do you need a college education to really succeed. Are there other easier ways to get a higher education for less cost and better results. Is the notion of college outdated in the internet age where there is a world of information at a persons fingertips. The way we think about education has to change and not just in the way we test students.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:44 AM   #6
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Do you need a college education to really succeed. Are there other easier ways to get a higher education for less cost and better results. Is the notion of college outdated in the internet age where there is a world of information at a persons fingertips. The way we think about education has to change and not just in the way we test students.
It all depends on the industry. But if you want to make any decent money now, you need some type of post high school certification or degree.

But I totally agree and understand with what you're trying to say. All high school students nowadays are told "You have to go to college," when in reality, many of them just won't be able to cut it in college and just don't get accepted or drop out. Kids like this used to be encouraged to go to something like a trade school. Many of the trades are important jobs, high paying, and can't be outsourced.. these kids would be way better off getting into a career path like that, but instead they are told "go to college", it doesn't work out, and they end up stuck working at dead-end minimum wage job with no certification, degree, or experience.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:52 AM   #7
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It all depends on the industry. But if you want to make any decent money now, you need some type of post high school certification or degree.
Lets say college equivalent, if there was a higher learning without the expense or fluff. Just a way to learn the courses you want and get expertise in a desired field. Is the 4 year college model outdated for most jobs. Not counting lawyer or doctor that need more in depth training.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 07:40 AM   #8
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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/08/ny...ores.html?_r=0

We need to stop teaching to the test and actually educate our kids.
From the article.

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The exams were some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as the Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving over short answers and memorization. Last year, under an easier test, 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math.
I don't know a lot about Common Core but it seems to me that it is a step in the right direction and is a move away from teaching for the test.

Also, since Michelle Malkin is vehemently opposed to it, a rational person can only think it's a good thing.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 08:01 AM   #9
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[RANT]

It is easier to 'raise standards' and blame teachers, students and parents than it is to raise taxes to provide more resources for education.

All I can say is that if we conducted medical research and policy making like we do for educational research and policy making, then life expectancy would be steadily decreasing (interestingly, education is one of the best ways to increase life expectancy).

The US has the National Institutes of Health and the UK has the Medical Research Council (and NICE). Why don't we have a US National Institute of Education (for proper research, including multicenter trials that compare new practices to current best practice) and a UK Educational Research Council? Politicians are currently making educational policies on whims and very poorly conducted research....

[/RANT]
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 10:53 AM   #10
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[RANT]

It is easier to 'raise standards' and blame teachers, students and parents than it is to raise taxes to provide more resources for education.
A ton of tax money goes to education. More than half of a local budget actually. The problem is the curriculum that is funded is crap. It has nothing to do with lack of money.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:03 AM   #11
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We can't compare to other countries that go to school 6 days a week for 340 days a year. We will never beat Japan or India in education. We need to compare to the other 50 states first.

Plus the whole everyone needs to go to college mentality needs to stop, all it does if make colleges richer while doing nothing to help our students.

I also don't know how a test can measure deep understanding when everyone learns differently.
Actually for many private colleges that specialize in low income, they are giving them the education that they should have received in high school (at the cost of about $40-60k). Public educators and the education system have failed the children in the US.

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A ton of tax money goes to education. More than half of a local budget actually. The problem is the curriculum that is funded is crap. It has nothing to do with lack of money.
Get rid of tenure for elementary/secondary teachers and I imagine that will change fairly quickly. Budgets go down and performance goes up.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:12 AM   #12
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Get rid of tenure for elementary/secondary teachers and I imagine that will change fairly quickly. Budgets go down and performance goes up.
There is good and bad in tenure. Both of my parents were teachers (my father ended as a high school principal) on Long Island, and in a union (NYSUT is probably the strongest educational union in the country), and I've listened to the debate numerous times.

The one issue is that many school districts, in an effort to save $$, tend to force out the teachers with the most experience so they can hire younger, less qualified teachers and pay them less. While it may save money in the long run, is it really in the best interests of education? Tenure has always been something that protected those teachers from losing their job for no reason (other than they make too much $$).

The other side, of course, is that it allows underperforming veteran teachers to keep their job, whether they deserve it or not. It's a fine line, that's for sure.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:17 AM   #13
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There is good and bad in tenure. Both of my parents were teachers (my father ended as a high school principal) on Long Island, and in a union (NYSUT is probably the strongest educational union in the country), and I've listened to the debate numerous times.

The one issue is that many school districts, in an effort to save $$, tend to force out the teachers with the most experience so they can hire younger, less qualified teachers and pay them less. While it may save money in the long run, is it really in the best interests of education? Tenure has always been something that protected those teachers from losing their job for no reason (other than they make too much $$).

The other side, of course, is that it allows underperforming veteran teachers to keep their job, whether they deserve it or not. It's a fine line, that's for sure.
My mom was a teacher as well and I agree that tenure is only half of the problem. You also have kids that don't care and there is nothing you can do to teach them. But who takes the blame, the teacher. On the other hand, districts will only cater to the "smart college bound kids" and brush the others under the rug.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:19 AM   #14
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Like healthcare, the US spends more per capita than other countries yet we achieve lesser outcomes. We need to prune our education bureaucracy and get these dollars into the classrooms.

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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:34 AM   #15
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There is good and bad in tenure. Both of my parents were teachers (my father ended as a high school principal) on Long Island, and in a union (NYSUT is probably the strongest educational union in the country), and I've listened to the debate numerous times.

The one issue is that many school districts, in an effort to save $$, tend to force out the teachers with the most experience so they can hire younger, less qualified teachers and pay them less. While it may save money in the long run, is it really in the best interests of education? Tenure has always been something that protected those teachers from losing their job for no reason (other than they make too much $$).

The other side, of course, is that it allows underperforming veteran teachers to keep their job, whether they deserve it or not. It's a fine line, that's for sure.
The tenure system was developed to prevent professors from being fired from outside interests (ie. you don't like this research so make a donation and the professor gets fired).

I don't think that is an issue in elementary/secondary schools because they have a set curriculum that they teach each year, thus they do not deserve the protection of tenure. Its like not differentiating between an engineer and an assembly line worker.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 11:42 AM   #16
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The tenure system was developed to prevent professors from being fired from outside interests (ie. you don't like this research so make a donation and the professor gets fired).

I don't think that is an issue in elementary/secondary schools because they have a set curriculum that they teach each year, thus they do not deserve the protection of tenure. Its like not differentiating between an engineer and an assembly line worker.
I just explained why you can make an argument that teachers do need the protection of tenure. Money. Money. Money. It has absolutely nothing to do with the curriculum, and it has nothing to do with why the system was developed. It's certainly not being used that way these days.

I assume you think that firing those with experience for no other reason than financial and hiring those with none is ok? Do you honestly think that's good for the system?

There are many issues with our system and tenure is nowhere near the top of the list.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:00 PM   #17
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A ton of tax money goes to education. More than half of a local budget actually. The problem is the curriculum that is funded is crap. It has nothing to do with lack of money.
It does not follow that education is fully resourced if it takes up more than half the local budget, for the needs of the school system is based on the cost of educating students well – not the size of local government. The 'half of local budget' statistic is meaningless because the local budget depends on tax revenue, which in turn rests on wholly political decisions about taxation.

I have relatives who teach in the 5th richest county in the US (average income >$100,000) but still have class sizes of >32 pupils and have to hold classes in temporary huts rather than permanent buildings. In the state in which they live, the so-called public universities get <10% of their operating budget from state funds. Overall the US spends only about 5.6% of GDP on public spending for education, whereas Finland, which performs so well in the graphic posted above by rdowns, spends about 6.8% of GDP on education. Jamaica and Cuba spend more of their GDP on public funding of education than the US. (source http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.XPD.TOTL.GD.ZS).
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:02 PM   #18
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The US has the National Institutes of Health and the UK has the Medical Research Council (and NICE). Why don't we have a US National Institute of Education (for proper research, including multicenter trials that compare new practices to current best practice) and a UK Educational Research Council? Politicians are currently making educational policies on whims and very poorly conducted research....
I agree. Education has long been driven by fads without serious attempts to determine outcomes. The type of outcome testing that is usually done has to be cheap (every child every year), so, teaching to the test - AKA rote learning - is the norm.

What if we actually attempted to carefully measure outcomes, as is done in medicine? A fairly recent trend in medicine has been to start measuring the efficacy of medical tests-- for example, including measuring the cost of false positives, relative to not testing at all. Does the testing actually improve overall life expectancy and quality of life?

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A ton of tax money goes to education. More than half of a local budget actually. The problem is the curriculum that is funded is crap. It has nothing to do with lack of money.
How do you know that all curricula are deficient?

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Get rid of tenure for elementary/secondary teachers and I imagine that will change fairly quickly. Budgets go down and performance goes up.
Is this something you have quantitative data for? What proof do you have that children of tenured teachers learn less?

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The one issue is that many school districts, in an effort to save $$, tend to force out the teachers with the most experience so they can hire younger, less qualified teachers and pay them less. While it may save money in the long run, is it really in the best interests of education? Tenure has always been something that protected those teachers from losing their job for no reason (other than they make too much $$).

The other side, of course, is that it allows underperforming veteran teachers to keep their job, whether they deserve it or not. It's a fine line, that's for sure.
Back in the day, education always depended on young women working on the cheap in elementary school. Then, they got married, quit teaching, and were replaced. Sometimes they would return to teaching after the kids grew up. It usually was a secondary job to the primary breadwinner. Demographics changed. Naturally, costs had to go up, as they did in nursing as well, as demographics changed. If teaching is going to be a middle-class career, it is bound to cost a lot of money compared to the old days.

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My mom was a teacher as well and I agree that tenure is only half of the problem. You also have kids that don't care and there is nothing you can do to teach them. But who takes the blame, the teacher. On the other hand, districts will only cater to the "smart college bound kids" and brush the others under the rug.
Sure, some students have a bad attitude. But, if they excelled, would their attitude change? Sometimes a bad attitude is a natural reaction when you are not doing well compared to most other kids.

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Like healthcare, the US spends more per capita than other countries yet we achieve lesser outcomes. We need to prune our education bureaucracy and get these dollars into the classrooms.
I have to wonder how much the high cost is due to "bureaucracy" and how much is due to simple demographics? High-achieving women can excel in a lot of career fields now and they are not forced into teaching and nursing as they once were.


As far as I am concerned, there are a lot of questions regarding education that have never been answered. Many educated people seem to know a lot more about the latest studies on health and diet (doesn't always stop them from drinking soda by the liter) and medicine these days than education. Back to the beginning of this thread:

What do we know, actually, about the testing associated with Common Core standards? Do we know that the tests actually measure deeper understanding, or, can the tests be gamed through memorization just like all the other standardized machine-graded tests?

In short, has this new Common Core testing program been tested itself?
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:09 PM   #19
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I assume you think that firing those with experience for no other reason than financial and hiring those with none is ok? Do you honestly think that's good for the system?

There are many issues with our system and tenure is nowhere near the top of the list.
I would only fire those who do not perform at an adequate level for their pay. Why would I pay $20-40k a year more for someone with 15 years experience when the teacher with 2 years experience is outperforming them?

Doesn't work in the private sector, shouldn't work in the public sector. Especially since I am paying for it.

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Is this something you have quantitative data for? What proof do you have that children of tenured teachers learn less?
It doesn't really matter what studies I present, you will just say its due to the student's socio-economic background and not the teachers themselves.

In a scenario where you knew at your work that you could never be fired except for in extreme cases, would you really put in 110% every day or would you cruise on into retirement?

I think the US elementary and secondary education numbers speak for themselves. They are cruising at 40 mph on a 70 mph highway.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:12 PM   #20
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How do you know that all curricula are deficient?
Systems use a one size fits all approach. If a kid doesn't learn to that approach they get left behind. Everyone learns differently but there is no time to teach every student. You either get the material and keep up or you are left in the dust.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:22 PM   #21
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Systems use a one size fits all approach. If a kid doesn't learn to that approach they get left behind. Everyone learns differently but there is no time to teach every student. You either get the material and keep up or you are left in the dust.
This does seem to reflect some of the experiences I have had in education, both as a student and as a university lecturer with 20 years of experience. However, merely changing the goalposts isn't going to get the kids where they need to go. It seems to me from having watched university students both in the UK and the US that they use horrible strategies for studying. Rather than focusing on goalposts and blaming teachers, we should start by helping each student learn what works best for them when they study, but that would take more resources....
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:29 PM   #22
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This does seem to reflect some of the experiences I have had in education, both as a student and as a university lecturer with 20 years of experience. However, merely changing the goalposts isn't going to get the kids where they need to go. It seems to me from having watched university students both in the UK and the US that they use horrible strategies for studying. Rather than focusing on goalposts and blaming teachers, we should start by helping each student learn what works best for them when they study, but that would take more resources....
More resources? How about not squandering the resources they are provided by the tax payers? The chart above clearly illustrates that other countries are getting better results with less resources.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 12:34 PM   #23
VulchR
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Originally Posted by Zombie Acorn View Post
More resources? How about not squandering the resources they are provided by the tax payers? The chart above clearly illustrates that other countries are getting better results with less resources.
That's fewer resources.

The chart above shows absolute spending, and does not appear to have factored in the cost of resources. In countries like the US, where the standard of living is high, costs are higher for everything from basic supplies to labor. That's why I referred to the % of GDP above, for this tells us how much we invest in education compared to what we could invest. Also, one has to be careful about interpreting bubble charts - is the amount of spending for a given country in the chart related to the radius, diameter, area, or volume of the equivalent sphere? Bubble charts are a poor way to visualize information.

For the record though, I'd love to see teachers freed from irrational or unsupported policies that waste time and money.
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Old Aug 8, 2013, 05:56 PM   #24
shinji
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Originally Posted by VulchR View Post
That's fewer resources.

The chart above shows absolute spending, and does not appear to have factored in the cost of resources. In countries like the US, where the standard of living is high, costs are higher for everything from basic supplies to labor. That's why I referred to the % of GDP above, for this tells us how much we invest in education compared to what we could invest. Also, one has to be careful about interpreting bubble charts - is the amount of spending for a given country in the chart related to the radius, diameter, area, or volume of the equivalent sphere? Bubble charts are a poor way to visualize information.
But your chart also shows that we spend a higher % of GDP than Japan, and yet we still get worse results. The cost of living is extremely high over there.

The same is true for Germany, whose cost of living is a bit closer.

A big part of this isn't so much the total amount we're spending on education, but the socioeconomic class of the students. In some other countries, where they less income inequality and a wider social safety net, there aren't so many disadvantaged children taking the tests. Finland, for example...

I would imagine if you looked at the distribution of scores on these tests against household income, the picture would be a lot more clear.
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