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Obama says longer school days and years will bring the US up to par.


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Posted on Mar 18, 2009 2:22:45 PM PDT
SB says:
"I don't think most people have an idea how poorly educated Americans are, how far behind they are compared to their age mates in other developed (and even developing) countries, how phenomenally undisciplined they are, and how much it matters."

This is so true. If an American parent could spend a day in an average Western European classroom, they would be stunned at the advanced rigorous work kids do. A lot of Americans assume that kids of a certain age aren't capable of doing the kinds of work that millions of their peers around the world easily do.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2009 2:24:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2009 4:46:31 PM PDT
SB says:
"It is NOT true that all teachers decide what and how to teach. It depends on the school district. Most districts in my area have a curriculum, scope and sequence that teachers must follow."

Very true! Some school districts do have very detailed curricula. But most don't. The school district I live in is all over the place in terms of what is taught. Also, district curricula are usually poorly designed because school districts lack the many specialists that are needed to create effective curricula.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2009 2:28:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2009 2:30:40 PM PDT
SB says:
"My cousin teaches to a gifted school in south Korea. Don't be fooled at thinking these kids are perfectly rounded because they easily excel in mathematics and science. They absolutely don't know what to do with abstract ideas or concepts. They are totally overwhelmed at writing. They struggle with their own thoughts and feelings. Give them a creative or 'show your opinion' or thought questions and they flounder"

This is true for many American students as well. At least, South Koreans are good at math and science. American kids are often bad at reading, writing, math, science, geography, history, civics, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. I read the results of a survey that questioned universities about the competence of new students. If I remember correctly, 70% weren't ready for college level reading, 80% for college math and 88% for college writing.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2009 2:38:47 PM PDT
Oh my gosh, thank you so much for being a voice of reason on here. I have seen so many posts that talk about our failing school system and terrible teachers, while the parents are blameless. I am a 6th grade teacher at a Charter School where the parents are HIGHLY involved in the school and their children's education. Our outstanding test scores and other achievements are a testimonial to the fact that student success depends on a home-school cooperative effort. This should not be a finger-pointing contest. Everyone needs to take ownership for our education system's shortcomings and work together to make improvements.

Posted on Mar 18, 2009 4:16:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 18, 2009 5:01:25 PM PDT
SB says:
Education Matters,

"For those of you who say we need a standardized curriculum in our schools, guess what? We already have it. Every state has their own curriculum and most are VERY similar, across the board."

No, we don't. I live in California and there is no specific curriculum that spells out exactly what should be taught in each grade. I often hear parents who have just moved complain that their child's new school is either too easy or too hard compared to their previous school. If we had standardized curricula, wouldn't they be the same? My sister is a teacher. She once worked at a school that taught math most of the day. The state never told them that they couldn't. My friend's son left a school that taught English, Math, Social Studies and Science. He moved to a new school where only Math and English were taught. If the state had standards, wouldn't they be the same? In California, schools are using everything from Everyday Math to Singapore Math as part of their curricula. This is hardly standardized. Standardized would mean that all schools are doing much the same thing at the same grade. I can assure you, this is not happening where I live.

Posted on Mar 18, 2009 6:01:34 PM PDT
tresgatos says:
We need to be focusing our time on the things that make kids smarter. We are well beyond the shift to the "information age". While everyone needs a core of basic knowledge which is shared culturally, education must go beyond regurgitating facts. Learning how to assess information, analyze it, and use it in meaningful and productive ways should be the focus of education now. What makes kids smarter? Music, strategy games (like chess), reading, conversation (debate), and probably many other things we've cut from the day and from the budget, including real recess! But what school could take time out of test preparation for such "fluff"? I "homeschool" my kids in the evening by making sure there is time for these kinds of things.
I wouldn't want to lengthen the school day unless I could see that the things they would add would add value to education.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 18, 2009 8:17:29 PM PDT
Blessed Mama says:
We were number one in the world before the new math, before the whole language approach, before boring textbooks and endless worksheets. We were number one when we had less school, not more. We were more creative, better thinkers, better conversationalists, and better people when we were less PC.

Many of the best books in history read by our forefathers are not read by many children today and those were the books that made great people great because they impacted people's souls. Children back then also valued education more and understood that it took hard work to do well. Children today expect to be entertained and to not have to put in any effort. It is not bad teachers so much as it is poor students. Also, parents do not always back up the teacher when the teacher says that "Johnny is disruptive in class and doesn't do his work." Instead, I know of parents that do their children's homework for them and threaten to sue if Johnny is disciplined.

More school is not the answer. If school was optional, then the burden would be where it is supposed to be--with the student. If he wants a future, he will enroll. If not, then it is his own fault, not his parents' or teachers' faults. I do not believe in universal preschool, year round school, more homework, or longer school hours. All of these measures have actually been proven by research to be detrimental to children's creativity and their psychological and emotional health. Japan may score higher internationally, but they also have one of the highest, if not THE highest, suicide rate among its youth.

Posted on Mar 19, 2009 7:22:19 PM PDT
Swordssss says:
More school will not help. Definitely won't. We need better quality teachers..... you won't believe how many teachers say they hate kids, or they hate their job. Teaching is a job that you do not want to hate. You not only hurt yourself but your students.

Schools need to move away from discipline. Anyone working at a school knows that discipline does not work. Kids don't learn anything when they get detention. At least the repeat offenders. We need a more "working with" approach and we need to get rid of the "doing to" approach. An approach that helps us find out why a student is acting out and helping the student to solve the problem. Not yelling at them and making them go to the principle for the billionth time.

There is a much more difficult problem though. Schools in impoverished areas. I do not blame the students so much as I blame their economic status which many poor people cannot help.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2009 11:00:08 PM PDT
US public education was originally designed to meet the needs of a social system that is no longer in practice (i.e., for the most part, children are not needed on farms during critical summer months). There is nothing magical about a 7:30am-3:30pm school day, September through May/June educational cycle. I think it is absurd to continue with this schedule simply because this is how things have been done before--simply because this is what we are used to. That said, an extended school day/calendar does not necessarily imply *more* reading, writing, arithmetic. As educators, we need to think creatively and champion educational innovations and models that are relevant to the particular needs of a global system in the context of nation, state, district, and school.

We do need to rethink the way that we schedule *and* structure our public school learning environments so that they are more relevant to (post)modern life in the US. There is overwhelming research that demonstrates the value of art, music, play, creativity, bi-/multi-lingualism in the intellectual & social development of children. When reading scores are consistently low in a school system, suffocating students (and teachers) with more reading "lessons" may not be the most effective, or humanistic, approach. Children must feel a sense of engagement with themselves, their peers, adults, the environment... in order to learn. Creative activities such as play are precisely what helps us all to become engaged beings capable of negotiating our intellectual curiosity, our communities, and our world.

P.S. Education is not an either-or project that pits the federal against the state. PreK-12 US education is a complex system that involves national, regional, state, district, local, classroom educators who negotiate educational standards on a continuous basis. Furthermore, our educational system also works with the particularities of communities and families in the delivery of education.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 19, 2009 11:10:56 PM PDT
Yes, California *does* have specific curriculum standards.

Here is a link to your state's
Content Standards (K-12)
Curriculum Frameworks & Instructional Materials
Curriculum Development & Supplemental Materials Commission

http://www.cde.ca.gov/CI/

...and it sounds like your sister worked in a school with bad administrative leadership. All schools in the US have curriculum benchmarks and standards.

Posted on Mar 19, 2009 11:17:52 PM PDT
Sawsan says:
I agree that kids should spend more days of the year in school. They are in school for enough hours during the day, but their summer vacation is too long. If they received more shorter vacations than less longer vacations, they will not forget everything in the middle and they will not burn out as fast. Maybe they could have a longer spring and winter break and a shorter summer break. One month for summer is long enough; three months is ridiculous for kids to do nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 11:52:51 AM PDT
Swordssss says:
You talk as if nothing is learned over the summer.... yes if a kid sits around and plays video games all day they aren't learning much. Yet, most kids socialize in a more casual setting. Their everyday activities provide many opportunities to learn. If they have active parents, a hike in the woods could be a huge learning experience. You just have to be creative. Learning does not have to be in a classroom.

Also the break is actually around 2 and a half months.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 2:14:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 20, 2009 2:35:42 PM PDT
Is Hungary really a country that leads in education? They are not an affluent nation, so why would we want to emulate them? Also, unless you are an educational professional, you can't really speak on this subject with any authority. Almost everyone has attended public schools, so they think they are experts when they are not. Professional educators should be making these decisions, not the public and not politicians. The system need reform, but these need to be worked on by educators. I do not come to your workplace and tell you how to do your job. Please do not presume to come to mine and tell me what to do.

Posted on Mar 20, 2009 2:45:58 PM PDT
C. Gonzales says:
curriculums have not been dumb down. It is stronger than when i was in high school.
Lack of parental involvement and requiring of our students, as well as our nation to not hold any responsibility and ethics.
Tell your kid to tell the agent at Disneyland that he/she is 8 when they are 12, you've taught them it is ok to lie to get what you want.
Wake up america.

Posted on Mar 20, 2009 3:04:59 PM PDT
Superskier says:
My wife was a fantastic teacher for 21 years and had to resign due to health reasons. She was the most requested teacher in her school district. I observed her often when our children were attending the same school She worked 12 hours a day, taught first graders to read and write with or without the magic curriculum everyone is searching for. Often her students tested at the bottom of the pile at the beginning of the year and rose to their full potential by the end of the year. She was gifted and talented and able to look beyond the the textbook and helped her students shine by developing their self esteem to succeed and helped them learn how to use critical thinking skills. She often said, "teaching a child to read or write is a craft, it is like an artist with a brush".

Finding better teachers will only occur if they are paid and treated with the same respect as Doctors, lawyers, or other highly educated and trained professionals. You get what you pay for and no curriculum, state, administration, or educational program will change that. Students don't need longer hours, more homework, or other options. They need adults who can teach and think using love, logic, and open minds to change and grow with the students.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 5:47:25 PM PDT
I disagree highly. What's needed is more parents (both mother and father) being involved with their learning AT HOME.
My husband and I have a son who was in school grades 1-12 graduateing valadictorian and then went on to MIT and graduated there.
We always read to our boys, played games with them such as monopoly where they learned money, scrable taught spelling and word meaning and many other educational games instead of "killing" computer games etc.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 5:47:34 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 7:03:04 PM PDT
Doc Bee says:
I respectfully disagree with Thea Nguyen's post. There is nothing wrong with a liberal arts or social sciences field. As a Ph.D. psychologist (and who teaches and trains many students in the field) it is academically challenging and rigorous work, particularly when you get to the graduate level (and if it is taught correctly and with an emphasis on empirical training- at the undergraduate level). I have received grants and written several articles that appear in psychology journals. I have also worked hard to help those suffering from a devastating mental illness work to find recovery. Those whom you "laugh at" for going into those fields may be future psychologists, who are doing groundbreaking work in conducting research in the prevention and treatment of serious mental illnesses (autism, bipolar disorder) as well as helping individuals gain a better quality of life. Think particularly about psychologists who research and treat suicidal behavior- they save lives! Instead of ridiculing people for not going into a field YOU simply deem to be superior, encourage people to achieve excellence in any area that they pursue. Believe it or not, there are other areas of study besides science that offer just as much value.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 7:12:54 PM PDT
Doc Bee says:
I completely agree with SB's post. Having lived in and been schooled in different countries, it is alarming to see the attitudes many parents have here. Research has shown that here, many parents are satisfied with lower levels of achievement for their children, and attribute academic failure/success more to innate ability (i.e., my child just is not talented in math). Research also showed that although parents put far less pressure on their kids to succeed, they also offer far less academic support( less involvement/monitoring with homework, as well as less extracurricular activities that support learning such as trips to the zoo or opera). Research also showed that parents are more concerned with the self-esteem of their children being built up- and MORE research has shown self-esteem is not that significant when it comes to grades. Failing students in the US have high self-esteem and actually OVERESTIMATE some of their abilities (shown in another study). In other countries, such as Japan, parents attribute academic success/failure to effort, and encourage students to put in a great deal of effort. There is more pressure to succeed, but there is also more SUPPORT and involvement in academics. They have higher standards for academic achievement, and are less concerned with building self-esteem, but rather giving accurate feedback to their kids about their performance. Simply put, we need to make this issue of education a TOP priority and stop worrying so much about coddling our kids and putting up with bad grades so they feel good about themselves. Nobody is being helped with this. Let's start teaching our kids early and often, set high standards for academics, offer support, and encourage them to put in an incredible amount of effort. Their future is at stake. We have accepted despicably low standards in this country, and we will reap devastating consequences if this continues.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 7:14:34 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 8:32:27 PM PDT
Swordssss says:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 20, 2009 9:05:43 PM PDT
Doc Bee says:
The educational system does need an overhaul, I agree. But we won't get anywhere with parents that coddle their children and settle for poor performance. Teachers need more support and respect, and we need to worry less about making our kids "feel good" and preparing them for the realities of hard work. We need an optimal interaction between a reformed educational system and reformed parents and families.

Posted on Mar 20, 2009 9:32:51 PM PDT
We must stop kidding ourselves that all students are college bound. We force every student to take college prep courses that many of them will never need. We have dumbed down the course so that every child can pass the accompanying end of course standardized test (the tests have also been dumbed down). The only way for our students to compete successfully is to identify the students who actually are college bound at or before the 8th grade and offer alternatives for the others. That's what other countries do. The students who actually are college bound can be challenged without worrying about losing the students who do not belong in those courses. I dont know why we have come to believe that every child is headed for college. Believing this is a huge waste of time and money.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2009 9:12:01 AM PDT
Swordssss says:
I agree with that. The reform I am thinking of is more along the lines of Alfie Kohn's writings.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2009 11:37:19 AM PDT
Bea Shalla says:
I attended school in the Philippines from 1st to 7th grade. When I attended my 8th grade here in the U.S. the curriculum was too easy... we were already taught algebra and geometry in the 5th-7th grade over there, and we were only starting those in the 8th grade here.

Classes there were only from 8am to noon Mondays thru Fridays, and I learned a lot being at home and reading, playing (and not with the latest, high tech toys, but with the basics, a ball, a pen, paper, a book...), hanging out with my friends on my own. Of course my grandparents were always there too, teaching me how to cook, how to garden--I feel you learn a lot of wisdom and important insights on life from other people when you're not pressured like you would be if it was in a school setting and you're being graded.

It's important to learn to read and write, but practicing it in real life was what really helped me. School is teaches the tools but you have to use them and interacting in real life, that's where you use what you've learned.

In the 8th grade, my first year in school here, I felt the classes were too easy and I was surprised that students were being "babied" too much. We were treated as if we couldn't do things ourselves, that teachers and administrators had to hold our hands in order for us to learn and achieve. Many of my classmates were bored, they weren't inspired. By the 11th grade, it was getting pretty boring to me too. In the Philippines it only goes up to the 10th grade, then college. I feel that would've been better for me and my classmates. Tighten up the curriculum so that it's challenging and fun (and I don't mean silly games, I mean serious challenges to achieve... give those who are getting A's and those doing their best a reward). In the Philippines, they made it into a contest, the top 3 smartest students in every class were always given the titles--1st Honor, 2nd Honor... (By the way, I graduated from California Polytechnique Univ, with a 3.61 GPA, cumlaude, taking sometimes 28-32 units/per quarter in case that helps)

Longer school days won't fix this. It's too long already. It's the way the culture is presently structured: parents are out working and the grandparents and uncles, aunts--families aren't that close, no one to play or spend quality time with the kids... The solution? They say it takes a village to raise a child... again, it's not longer school days or school hours, not quantity over quality...it is as someone said here "the unsupervised time and freedom to be kids - to play tag and sandlot baseball, hang around with friends, daydream."
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