T Nation

The problem with education



That site pretty much explains the make up of the school I teach at, and pretty much refutes everything bureaucrats say we need to do to improve education. These are our results on the statewide competency test given last Spring compared to the statewide average. To be fair, this is the first year this particular test was used. The gap between our school and the statewide average was never quite this large, but I think that is probably because most schools taught to the old test rather than just teaching.

Reading IDEA Academy State Average
Grade 4 78% 65%
Grade 5 86% 49%
Grade 6 91% 49%
Grade 7 93% 47%
Grade 8 98% 45%
Grade 4 87% 74%
Grade 5 87% 69%
Grade 6 87% 49%
Grade 7 91% 35%
Grade 8 91% 33%

Notice students get stronger the longer they are here. Some information about our school compared to the state average:

Teacher Experience--well below average
Average Teacher Salary--below average
Class Size--larger than average
Student Ethnicity--94% Hispanic, 5% White, 1% Native American
Economically Disadvantaged--88% (compared to a state average of 50%--most of our students live in colonias in homes their parents have built one room at a time out of cinderblock)
Mobility Rate--27% (percentage of kids moving during the school year--mostly migrant farmworkers)
Expenditures per pupil--$4047 (compared to a state average of $6167)

So we have inexperienced teachers who aren't paid well, teaching classes that are too large, made up of poor minority students, all the while spending 1/3 less than the state average per pupil. What makes us successful? Several things.
1. Teacher dedication--most of our teachers are from Teach for America and they all believe that every child will learn. That alone makes a huge difference. You can't imagine the number of teachers you meet at conferences who say things like, "You can't expect every kid to be able to read on grade level". If you are interested, check out the documentary "The First Year" which follows a couple of TFA teachers in their first year of teaching. .
2. Time on task--we are at school from 7:30 to 5:00 Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 to 1:00 on Saturdays (for those who need tutoring).
3. Parent support--Our parents are great. They back our decisions and discipline. For example, we have a program we call Wall Street. Students who come to school without all of their homework completed for that day stay after school until they finish the homework they came without, plus that days work. Parents then have to come pick up the kids when they are done. This is quite a difficulty for some of these parents, yet they support the program because they know how important it is to hold their kids responsible.

I guess I'll stop ranting now. I had an arguement Saturday with an administrator from another school who insisted Hispanic students will never succeed until money is spent to provide more technology in the classroom. Money is not the answer.


Those kids put in 47.5 hours a week of school. And THEN homework? These are kids for crying out loud. That's messed up. I only work 40 hours a week and I'm done when I get home. So when do these kids get time to be kids?


I do have to agree that more money is NOT the answer.

Proper spending of the money already alloted is what is needed.

I question how many of these school board administrators really have the students' needs in mind.


'These are kids for crying out loud. That's messed up. I only work 40 hours a week and I'm done when I get home. So when do these kids get time to be kids?'
that is the problem, kids are not expected to do anything. that also means that teachers arent expected to teach. this means a country of idiots complaining about how their jobs are going to india\china and how the kids that went to private schools have the well paying jobs that are left, leaving them at mc d's. i work ot when the pace picks up, giving me a 50+ hr work week in addition to exercise, cooking and maintaing a house and car. having them on a schedule mimicking the real world is how they will be prepared for it. this should be what is expected, along with discipline in the schools.


"that is the problem, kids are not expected to do anything."

So it's either 47.5 hours a week plus homework or they're doing NOTHING?

Uh, no.

They're kids, dammit. They're not adults. A kid in 4th grade should not be in a friggin classroom for 9.5 hours a day. That is WRONG. Oh, wait, when these kids don't want to sit around for that long and don't behave because it's totally unatural to be sitting for that long, you want to drug them up so they sit there like little zombies and act like little automatons instead of the kids that they are? Kids are NOT adults. Hello?


'having them on a schedule mimicking the real world is how they will be prepared for it."

Ok, good idea. I have some other ideas for kids. They should only be allowed to sleep 6 hours, because that's what it's like in the real world if you're working over 50 hours a week. They should also be given a budget and they should buy their own food and clothes. If they can't make the budget work, then they don't eat. They should also have to cook their own dinner, do their own dishes, and do their own laundary, because that's the only way to prepare them for the real world, right? Shit, they should have to get jobs and move out when they're 14. I mean, that's the only way to prepare them for the real world, right? We wouldn't want to expect nothing from our children, right?


He said the teachers are there from 7:30 to 5, the kids may not be there that long.



I agree with you to a point. Three years ago our school started as 4th-7th grade. We added 8th the second year, and Kinder and 9th grade this year. Once the school is feeding kids from K-12, there hopefully won't be as much need to keep them here so long. Right now, though, they come in way behind. My daughter is attending 4th grade here this year, and I thought long and hard about bringing her. We commute an hour each way to the school, so she has very little free time. She loves it, though. We are moving next year and she's already upset that she is going to have to leave this school. She loves that her teachers expect so much of her and that the other students are disciplined.


The kids are here from 7:30 to 5:00.


I am glad the kids are doing well and that the parents are supporting the educators, that is something you almost never see these days. Just out of curiosity, how much time do the kids get to exercise each day?


I agree with Kayrob about the parents getting involved in their children's school. But, I also have to agree with Morg. 9-1/2 hours a day for school is crazy. I have 2 kids(girls) in 3rd and 4th grades and I would not want them in school that long. They are in school from 7:30 to 2:40. They have activities they are involved in after school. My wife and I are involved with the school and the teachers. We, also, stay involved in OUR CHILDREN. Whether a child is in school 7 or 9 hours, it's all for naught if the parents aren't involved. We see the frustration of the teachers when a child has parents who, for one reason or another, aren't working with or getting involved in their child's education. We are fortunate to have teachers that challenge their students daily and expect results. Instead of trying to whitewash some of these education problems with money, we should try having some standards and/or guidelines holding parents accountable for their involvement or lack there of.



Not enough to be honest with you. That is something that we sit around and struggle with. About an hour a day for kids who aren't in orchestra, none for those who are. From 4-5, we have electives that kids sign up for. There are various sports and outdoor activities offered, but the majority probably don't get any physical activity during that time.
We end up weighing the kids' need for physical activity against the kids' need to break the cycle of poverty they come from.
Of course, a lot of these kids spend all summer in the fields working their asses off,


The problem with education is that everyone thinks they have the one magic bullet solution for all of our education problems.


Also, given what Rich pointed out, the more kids are in school the LESS time they are with their parents...the ones that really matter. Teachers are supposed to be interim parents, not practically full time parents. Parents should be doing the job and kids' lives shouldn't be totally controled by school. I'd like to say that's just my opinion, but that's the way it should be.


When I was a kid (not all that long ago, I'm 26) we lived to be outside playing sports, building forts, riding our bikes, and trying to get in trouble. Seems like now all kids want to do when they get home is play video games. I don't get it because we had atari then nintendo, but every single day after school there would be a baseball, football, or basketball game, depending on the season. Even at school we'd look forward to the recess game. Maybe it's because computers and video games are cooler now.


For Christ's sake!

Let's hear it for the 'Morgster! These are kids for cryin out loud! Let's give 'em some time off like all the other kids.

After all, there can never be enough uneducated, ignorant fuckheads working at Mickey D's right?

Wouldn't want the poor kids to trade a childhood of kick the can and video games for a future now would we?

Three cheers for stayin' in Da' Hood!

Three cheers for workin' in Da' Hood!

Three cheers for dyin' in Da' Hood!

Man, ignorance is soooo totally underrated.


"Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge"

~ Alfred North Whitehead



cause kids NEED 9.5 hours to get an education, right?


Well, maybe these kids do. The results aren't to be complained about and I don't see results like that in my middle of the road, 6 hour a day tops, whitebread school down the road.

I'm sure their budget is higher here. I know the kids come from a more affluent background, and I'm certain that the expectations of both teachers and parents are selling the kids very short.

The average kid around here is overweight, overindulged, and doesn't have a clue what hard work really is. Yeah, just let them be kids for crying out loud. That way the kids Doogie is teaching can support them when they get into the upper tax bracket and these kids are still working at Taco Bell.


Given the rest of doogies states results, maybe...maybe...

Do you not think that a little extra effort might be worth the risk? I mean, it sure as hell ain't gonna kill 'em and the very worst I can see it doing is prepare them for a lifetime of effort and focus...Oui?

*The next comment was inevitable, some knob was going to say it, so it might as well be me...

As a PARENT I feel that my opinion may carry a bit more weight as an EDUCATORS would...

Life is hard.

Get used to it.

Champions know this, they also know the value of sacrifice and hard work. They know that adversity is life's constant companion and fear of effort is failure.




The softening of our youth didn't start with Frito Lay and Sara Lee, it started when excellence became a perk instead of a necessary ingredient for survival. Instead of having to try harder we just had to have a better lawyer. "Oh, look at poor little Jimmy Finkelstein, can you believe that they didn't put him on the team? Just because he can't run? Phfffft, who do they think they are anyway, isn't this about "participation"? How dare they exclude him?"

Maybe little Jimmy should put down the fucking Ho-Ho's and drag his fat, lazy ass outside and try harder? Wouldn't that be a good idea? I wonder where he could learn a good life lesson like that? Maybe if he didn't have to try so hard at school he would have more in him to try here? You know, I bet you if we just went easier on the poor kid he could really show us some stuff. Yeah, that's the problem, we aren't letting him be a kid, we're stealing his childhood with all this crazy ""trying hard" stuff, it's wackyness I tell ya!

Lets back off and give the kid some time to be a kid, 'cause we all know that prisons are chock-freaking full of adults who spent too much time in school and too much effort on their education. Jimmy will have plenty of time to develop good habits and lay the foundation for good work habits when he gets older, I mean why would we want to waste all this precious "Kid time" building character and instilling habits that will only turn him into a hard working, productive member of society?

Excellence is cultivated.

So is Failure.


Whew! (yeah, I may have an opinion about this...)

"Perfection is our goal, excellence will be tolerated"

~ J. Yahl


If your name actually is Jimmy Finkelstein, my apologies.

For the name and for using it.



"Those kids put in 47.5 hours a week of school. And THEN homework?"

I am under the impression that by global standards (i.e. compared to India, China, etc.) this would probably be along the lines of, "Wow these kids are lucky, what do they do with all of their spare time?!" I read an article on highschool in China. It said something like the kids go to class from 7-5. Then they have homework from 6-12. Teachers phone parents at home at 11pm to make sure the kids are studying. This takes place 6 days a week. Sundays they get a full day of homework. Long weekends and holidays they get double the homework since they have the luxury of a day off to complete it. In class the students are arranged by grades, with the best students sitting at the front of the class. It is ruthless, and it must be pretty painful, but you just think about how much a kid like this is going to know by the time they are 16 years old. Just think about the work ethic they will have. I am not making this up. Fair enough, they're not kids, they're little "learning machines" -- but wake up because this is your competition.

Have you ever actually talked to someone educated outside of North America? I have talked to people who have gone to school in places ranging from Poland to India, and I am under the impression that by 13 they are studying math that we don't get until university. And from what I've heard, their university curriculums would make your head spin.

Yes, our 'traditional' system we've had here in North America for the last couple of generations might be "more fun", but you have to wake up to the reality that in other parts of the world people are being educated far, far better than you are, and then going on to work far, far harder than you are. They will laugh at a 40 hour work week, they will keep their skills sharp with continued education, and they will do all this for less than half the money you feel you deserve.

If you want your kids to have careers one day, they'll need to be able to compete not only at a national level trying to make the grades to get into a good university and so on, but I am guessing they'll need to be competing at the global level against these super educated and fiercly hard working folks as well.

So yeah it is a nice ideology to want kids to be kids, but unfortunately only the really blessed (whether that's with extra brains, extra money, family connections, or what have you) seem likely to get anywhere with that attitude. And considering that a lot of kids seem to have many factors working against them in our society, specifically the ones mentioned in the original post, a little extra work right now to ensure that they have the opportunity to go on and not be doomed to ghetto life or a life flipping burgers seems like a bargain to me.

Right here and now in the US and Canada I wonder what % of professionals work only a 40 hour work week.

Wake up!