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Education Reform in the US 
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Vouchers. It works wonders in Belgium. Let parents choose where their kids go to school instead of politicians. Teachers unions and school districts should not have a monopoly on education.


Sun May 22, 2011 1:44 am
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
I'll repeat what I asked in the other thread. How do you define failure in this case?


Exactly. It's certainly not just about money, or good students and parents, or good teachers. Any real solution involves all of those things and more. I'm not a teacher, but my work takes me into the schools daily (both public and private) and just like everything else in the world that has more than two people, success depends on individuals and individual situations. We're past the point where a framework or outline of anything can save all of our schools and students.

That said, the idea of "judge teachers based on their students grades" is perhaps the worst idea I've heard.


Sun May 22, 2011 2:11 am
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
Well, the status quo is certainly not working in a lot of these failing schools. You say not to treat education like a commodity when all we usually hear is "more money, more money"; the US is already near the top on money spent per student and yet we are nowhere near the tops in achievement. Money is not the answer....so what is?

I'll repeat what I asked in the other thread. How do you define failure in this case?

I define failure as schools with high drop out rates and students with lousy math and reading proficiencies. Draw your own conclusions as to the causes since you seemed to reject those pointed out in the film.
Shade wrote:
That said, the idea of "judge teachers based on their students grades" is perhaps the worst idea I've heard.

I agree that using student performance as a sole criteria not optimal. So how do schools in the private sector establish teacher pay and job retention? Just as my pay is determined by a manager, I would let principals have a say in merit salaries and with decisions on whom to keep and whom to fire; there needs to be some independent arbiter who is close enough to the situation to be able to make these judgements.


Sun May 22, 2011 8:42 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
Well, the status quo is certainly not working in a lot of these failing schools. You say not to treat education like a commodity when all we usually hear is "more money, more money"; the US is already near the top on money spent per student and yet we are nowhere near the tops in achievement. Money is not the answer....so what is?

I'll repeat what I asked in the other thread. How do you define failure in this case?

Easy: Measure the performance of all of a teachers classes over a year, compared with all other teachers. If that teacher performs in the lower x percent, maybe 40%, they're probably a bad teacher and probably should find a new line of work. The difference between good teachers and bad teachers is statistically significant and easily demonstrated.

School failure can be designated as schools with high dropout rates. Are you seriously going to suggest that teachers whose students repeatedly do far worse than their peers, and schools where half or more of students drop out, are NOT failures?

As for the notion that more money works, there is absolutely no relationship between the amount of money a state spends and the quality of education. None. Utah spends the least money per capita in the nation and their students are in the middle of the pack; DC spends the most and their students are last. We've been trying the "more money" solution and the "let's just blame the parents" solution for decades. It's a failure. We need real change.

Observe this graph:
http://cdn.ihatethemedia.com/wp-content ... 80x353.jpg

So let's give up this myth of more money leading to better students. It doesn't happen.

Now, why not treat education as a commodity? Because that's what it is. Why not let the market work? Why not find out what approaches work the best by permitting open competition?

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Sun May 22, 2011 8:52 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
Ken wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
Well, the status quo is certainly not working in a lot of these failing schools. You say not to treat education like a commodity when all we usually hear is "more money, more money"; the US is already near the top on money spent per student and yet we are nowhere near the tops in achievement. Money is not the answer....so what is?

I'll repeat what I asked in the other thread. How do you define failure in this case?

I define failure as schools with high drop out rates and students with lousy math and reading proficiencies. Draw your own conclusions as to the causes since you seemed to reject those pointed out in the film.
Shade wrote:
That said, the idea of "judge teachers based on their students grades" is perhaps the worst idea I've heard.

I agree that using student performance as a sole criteria not optimal. So how do schools in the private sector establish teacher pay and job retention? Just as my pay is determined by a manager, I would let principals have a say in merit salaries and with decisions on whom to keep and whom to fire; there needs to be some independent arbiter who is close enough to the situation to be able to make these judgements.


One of the thoughts is that a few students could work together to tank a given class out of spite against a teacher who may be a good teacher but who they don't like for other reasons. But the notion that a few students would singlehandedly be able to throw the statistics is not logical. If an average teacher has 5-6 classes, 25 students each, that is at least 125 students. Meddling of 5-10 students just isn't going to be all that significant.

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Sun May 22, 2011 8:56 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
I agree that using student performance as a sole criteria not optimal. So how do schools in the private sector establish teacher pay and job retention? Just as my pay is determined by a manager, I would let principals have a say in merit salaries and with decisions on whom to keep and whom to fire; there needs to be some independent arbiter who is close enough to the situation to be able to make these judgements.


Who is paying for this arbiter? Most school districts are hemorrhaging money, and if they have 40,000$ lying around they're hopefully going to use it for a new teacher, rather than this arbiter person.

And how exactly does the merit-arbiter work? I teach 5 periods a day, 180 days a year. That's 900 periods a year. I get observed formally on 4 of these 900 periods. My "merit" as a teacher is determined by 0.004% of what I do as a teacher. Does that make any sense? Is that a good way to determine how worthy I am as a teacher?

And if you think I should be observed more, who is going to do it? Principals and content supervisors already have too many responsibilities in most places.

And as for paying for performance, as Ken alluded to this is a non-starter. Or a clusterfuck, as I like to say. How do you do it?

Test scores? Okay. Great. I'll teach to the test then. If my job's on the line, then I'm not worried about making interesting lessons or getting students to synthesize information. I just want them to have the best scores in the county. So I'll give them the test as a review sheet. Or if they want me to "pre-test" the students in order to measure their progress, then I'll just make a ridiculously hard pre-test that the kids all get 5% on and then when they average 80% on the real test I'll be able to prove that I've taught them 75% of the material. What a great teacher!

And that doesn't even approach the difficulties of measuring performance when every teacher has different students.

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Sun May 22, 2011 8:57 am
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Ken wrote:
firefly wrote:
I think that pretty much all attentive people in the US acknowledge that our education system is failing. Many inner city schools are drop out factories in which half or more of students fail to graduate, and many of those that do are borderline illiterate. We are falling behind many other countries in our mathematics and language skills.

Is it failing? How do you define failure in this case?


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 00730.html

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Sun May 22, 2011 8:59 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
firefly wrote:
Easy: Measure the performance of all of a teachers classes over a year, compared with all other teachers. If that teacher performs in the lower x percent, maybe 40%, they're probably a bad teacher and probably should find a new line of work. The difference between good teachers and bad teachers is statistically significant and easily demonstrated.


Can't you see how ridiculously simplistic this argument is? Can't you see?

I'm *PROUD* of the fact that more kids fail my class than other teachers' classes. My policies on re-tests, homework "makeup," and late work are much stricter than the other teachers in my school. You have to do the work to pass my class. I won't baby you along, or allow you to make up your test by circling the correct answers. And thus more people fail. Should I "probably find a new line of work?"

And that assumes, by the way, that I have the exact same kids as the other teachers. Which I don't.

It also only makes sense if teachers are teaching the same subject. Which they don't. Wouldn't you expect more people to fail science than health?

THINK, MAN, THINK

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:03 am
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
firefly wrote:
Awf Hand wrote:
A school is only as strong as it's parents.


So do you think that China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea etc. just have better parents?



Yes. Manifestly. Certain cultures value education much more than others. Asian and Jewish cultures typically place a huge premium on the value of respecting one's elders and education in general. African-American culture and lower class white culture, by contrast, places much less.

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:12 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
firefly wrote:
Easy: Measure the performance of all of a teachers classes over a year, compared with all other teachers. If that teacher performs in the lower x percent, maybe 40%, they're probably a bad teacher and probably should find a new line of work. The difference between good teachers and bad teachers is statistically significant and easily demonstrated.


Can't you see how ridiculously simplistic this argument is? Can't you see?

I'm *PROUD* of the fact that more kids fail my class than other teachers' classes. My policies on re-tests, homework "makeup," and late work are much stricter than the other teachers in my school. You have to do the work to pass my class. I won't baby you along, or allow you to make up your test by circling the correct answers. And thus more people fail. Should I "probably find a new line of work?"

And that assumes, by the way, that I have the exact same kids as the other teachers. Which I don't.

It also only makes sense if teachers are teaching the same subject. Which they don't. Wouldn't you expect more people to fail science than health?

THINK, MAN, THINK


So do you think your kids at the end of the day would be able to pass a standardized test on the subject? What percentile do you think they would rank?

What you're advocating works out to no accountability for teachers. That may be fine for you and other teachers who actually do care about their jobs but there are far too many who don't to permit that to continue.

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:42 am
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
JamesKunz wrote:
firefly wrote:
Awf Hand wrote:
A school is only as strong as it's parents.


So do you think that China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea etc. just have better parents?



Yes. Manifestly. Certain cultures value education much more than others. Asian and Jewish cultures typically place a huge premium on the value of respecting one's elders and education in general. African-American culture and lower class white culture, by contrast, places much less.

So why waste resources on these inevitable failures? shepherd them to schools that will prepare them to be fast food workers and custodians, and permit schools to have higher standards and better teachers, preparing students who actually will achieve to not be distracted by those who won't. Another way that school choice will improve efficiency.

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:46 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
johnny larue wrote:
I agree that using student performance as a sole criteria not optimal. So how do schools in the private sector establish teacher pay and job retention? Just as my pay is determined by a manager, I would let principals have a say in merit salaries and with decisions on whom to keep and whom to fire; there needs to be some independent arbiter who is close enough to the situation to be able to make these judgements.


Who is paying for this arbiter? Most school districts are hemorrhaging money, and if they have 40,000$ lying around they're hopefully going to use it for a new teacher, rather than this arbiter person.

And how exactly does the merit-arbiter work? I teach 5 periods a day, 180 days a year. That's 900 periods a year. I get observed formally on 4 of these 900 periods. My "merit" as a teacher is determined by 0.004% of what I do as a teacher. Does that make any sense? Is that a good way to determine how worthy I am as a teacher?

And if you think I should be observed more, who is going to do it? Principals and content supervisors already have too many responsibilities in most places.

And as for paying for performance, as Ken alluded to this is a non-starter. Or a clusterfuck, as I like to say. How do you do it?

Test scores? Okay. Great. I'll teach to the test then. If my job's on the line, then I'm not worried about making interesting lessons or getting students to synthesize information. I just want them to have the best scores in the county. So I'll give them the test as a review sheet. Or if they want me to "pre-test" the students in order to measure their progress, then I'll just make a ridiculously hard pre-test that the kids all get 5% on and then when they average 80% on the real test I'll be able to prove that I've taught them 75% of the material. What a great teacher!

And that doesn't even approach the difficulties of measuring performance when every teacher has different students.


What you're saying is that if your job depends on how successful you are at it, then you're not going to care about the students.

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:47 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Oh, and while I'm at it, one more myth: The notion that class size matters.
Evidence to the contrary: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/ ... the-world/

So, we know that money doesn't matter. We know that class size doesn't matter. The teachers unions' arguments have been proven to be false. I'd say that's more evidence of a need for a fundamental change.

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Sun May 22, 2011 9:52 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
firefly wrote:
As for the notion that more money works, there is absolutely no relationship between the amount of money a state spends and the quality of education. None. Utah spends the least money per capita in the nation and their students are in the middle of the pack; DC spends the most and their students are last.


Did the study adjust for cost of living between Utah and DC? If not, then it's fatally flawed.

I'm always puzzled why so many people are willing to assume that education is some "special" product/commodity/resource/profession/what-have-you where -- unlike virtually every other product/etc. -- you tend to (on average) get better quality by being willing to put more resources (money) into the production of said product?

On a side note, could this be moved to the Off-Topic forum? This is the second time this debate (which never seems to go anywhere in the other places I've discussed it...) has taken over this thread. Personally, I come here to talk about movies and read other people talk about movies. If this is out-of-line for me to suggest, then my apologies... [/mini-rant]


Sun May 22, 2011 10:42 am
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
firefly wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
firefly wrote:
Easy: Measure the performance of all of a teachers classes over a year, compared with all other teachers. If that teacher performs in the lower x percent, maybe 40%, they're probably a bad teacher and probably should find a new line of work. The difference between good teachers and bad teachers is statistically significant and easily demonstrated.


Can't you see how ridiculously simplistic this argument is? Can't you see?

I'm *PROUD* of the fact that more kids fail my class than other teachers' classes. My policies on re-tests, homework "makeup," and late work are much stricter than the other teachers in my school. You have to do the work to pass my class. I won't baby you along, or allow you to make up your test by circling the correct answers. And thus more people fail. Should I "probably find a new line of work?"

And that assumes, by the way, that I have the exact same kids as the other teachers. Which I don't.

It also only makes sense if teachers are teaching the same subject. Which they don't. Wouldn't you expect more people to fail science than health?

THINK, MAN, THINK


So do you think your kids at the end of the day would be able to pass a standardized test on the subject? What percentile do you think they would rank?

What you're advocating works out to no accountability for teachers. That may be fine for you and other teachers who actually do care about their jobs but there are far too many who don't to permit that to continue.


But what you're saying would get James -- and teachers like him (aka teachers who care) -- fired in the first year of this new system.

This isn't complex: what James said is correct. Aside from the fact that a test is an incredibly unhelpful way to truly assess anyone's knowledge of anything, all a "merit" based system would do is force teachers to teach only the exact info that will be tested on. You're idea assumes that all students and classes and subjects are exactly the same so cutting the teachers who churn out the lowest grades should get fired. What? How does that make any sense? I can't believe you really think this would be helpful.


Sun May 22, 2011 12:58 pm
Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
johnny larue wrote:
I define failure as schools with high drop out rates and students with lousy math and reading proficiencies. Draw your own conclusions as to the causes since you seemed to reject those pointed out in the film.

Data missing: the standard by which math and reading proficiencies are deemed lousy, plus the standard by which drop-out rates are deemed to be high.

firefly wrote:
Easy: Measure the performance of all of a teachers classes over a year, compared with all other teachers. If that teacher performs in the lower x percent, maybe 40%, they're probably a bad teacher and probably should find a new line of work. The difference between good teachers and bad teachers is statistically significant and easily demonstrated.
Data missing: a reliable method by which we might funnel the enormous variety of nonlinear factors that constitutes what teachers actually do in the classroom into a single linear measurement of net performance.

firefly wrote:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400730.html
The trouble here is the very selective presentation of facts, apparently designed to shape the take-home message that we are all in Deep Shit. Data missing: anything that would conclusively indicate that the reason students in other countries achieve a higher linear score on these tests is that our schools are doing something wrong. (I assure you, this isn't as simple as everybody seems to be making it out to be.)

All the "data missing" here seems to have been filled by preemptive assumption: that our education system is failing and all ensuing evidence must fit that assumption in some way. But, in addition to our missing data, that assumption leaves several other things unaccounted for.

Let's say we accept that student performance can be reasonably measured subject by subject on a linear scale. On average, the reading and math scores of American students have not been dropping in recent years. In most cases, they've been going up, and in many cases, they've been going up quite a bit. In very few cases, they're at least remaining steady. This is a piece of data that has been missing so far: a comparison of where our students are now, to where they were previously. (Source.)

One thing that can be easily measured on a linear scale is our drop-out rate. From data representing the years from 1940 to 2004, the percentage of adults with less than a high school level of education has been dropping fairly steadily, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school level of education has been rising, also fairly steadily. Also rising steadily, though not quite as steeply, is the percentage adults with a Bachelor's degree or higher. This is another piece of data that was missing until now: a comparison of our current drop-out rate versus the trend in our drop-out rates over the years. (Source.)



While the education system is by no means perfect or beyond betterment, and while some schools are certainly better than others, I remain unconvinced that there are empirical grounds for the sweeping generalization that our education system is failing. Allowing for the fact that there are statistical outliers in any trend, our overall picture is one of constant improvement.

It seems to me that anything worth discussing in our public discourse is worth overinflating to the point of crisis. For example, it's not enough to suggest that our fairly decent school system could stand to be fixed up in a handful of key areas. No, it's much sexier to say that the whole thing is in danger of imminent collapse unless we act hard and act fast.

The noble motivation for this is obvious: the scarier something seems to be, the more likely people are to pay attention to it. However, I find that this sort of alarmism causes a bigger problem than it solves by unnecessarily obfuscating the true specifics of the problem. Instead of reasoned, rational responses to the issues at hand, we get Doomsday scenarios and knee-jerk reactions.


Sun May 22, 2011 3:31 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
haynesm wrote:
firefly wrote:
Did the study adjust for cost of living between Utah and DC? If not, then it's fatally flawed.


I don't see where CoL is particularly relevant. The various things that money is spent on in states don't vary substantially state by state.

Quote:
I'm always puzzled why so many people are willing to assume that education is some "special" product/commodity/resource/profession/what-have-you where -- unlike virtually every other product/etc. -- you tend to (on average) get better quality by being willing to put more resources (money) into the production of said product?


You don't improve a product with more money, you improve it with better ideas. Google didn't pwn Yahoo due to having more resources--they started out with far fewer; they pwned Microsoft by having better ideas.

One of the images I linked to provides clear evidence that the dramatic increase in spending per pupil at the national level has not been met with any change in scores. All we've seen is teachers unions hijack the education system to serve their selfish and destructive aims.

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Sun May 22, 2011 3:36 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
Data missing: the standard by which math and reading proficiencies are deemed lousy, plus the standard by which drop-out rates are deemed to be high.


You seem to be comfortable with the status quo, which is schools where half or more students drop out, and a national decline in scores relative to other countries. How in the world can you NOT say that a decline in our scores relative to other nations is failure, or that drop out factories are NOT failures?

Quote:
]The trouble here is the very selective presentation of facts, apparently designed to shape the take-home message that we are all in Deep Shit. Data missing: anything that would conclusively indicate that the reason students in other countries achieve a higher linear score on these tests is that our schools are doing something wrong. (I assure you, this isn't as simple as everybody seems to be making it out to be.)


What then is your explanation? Are Chinese simply genetically superior? Should we just resign ourselves to failure and hope that we can import enough of the superior breed to offset our own stupidity?


Quote:
Let's say we accept that student performance can be reasonably measured subject by subject on a linear scale. On average, the reading and math scores of American students have not been dropping in recent years. In most cases, they've been going up, and in many cases, they've been going up quite a bit. In very few cases, they're at least remaining steady. This is a piece of data that has been missing so far: a comparison of where our students are now, to where they were previously. (Source.)


Other studies find far different findings and I am inclined to believe them, especially as we see other nations so far ahead of our own.


Quote:
One thing that can be easily measured on a linear scale is our drop-out rate. From data representing the years from 1940 to 2004, the percentage of adults with less than a high school level of education has been dropping fairly steadily, and the percentage of adults with at least a high school level of education has been rising, also fairly steadily. Also rising steadily, though not quite as steeply, is the percentage adults with a Bachelor's degree or higher. This is another piece of data that was missing until now: a comparison of our current drop-out rate versus the trend in our drop-out rates over the years. (Source.)


This suggests something much different:
http://www.teapartyactivists.com/wp-con ... _Rates.jpg

You seem to have no answer to the problem of Drop Out Factories.

Quote:
While the education system is by no means perfect or beyond betterment, and while some schools are certainly better than others, I remain unconvinced that there are empirical grounds for the sweeping generalization that our education system is failing. Allowing for the fact that there are statistical outliers in any trend, our overall picture is one of constant improvement.

It seems to me that anything worth discussing in our public discourse is worth overinflating to the point of crisis. For example, it's not enough to suggest that our fairly decent school system could stand to be fixed up in a handful of key areas. No, it's much sexier to say that the whole thing is in danger of imminent collapse unless we act hard and act fast.

The noble motivation for this is obvious: the scarier something seems to be, the more likely people are to pay attention to it. However, I find that this sort of alarmism causes a bigger problem than it solves by unnecessarily obfuscating the true specifics of the problem. Instead of reasoned, rational responses to the issues at hand, we get Doomsday scenarios and knee-jerk reactions.


If we do not improve things, we will fall behind every other developed country in mathematics and science. We will not be able to import a significant portion of our brainpower forever. This is a recipe for disaster.

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Sun May 22, 2011 3:46 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
This may sound irresponsible(not to mention off topic), but why should we care about the education of students who clearly have no interest in going to school? I'm not sure that the workforce would be significantly effected if high school were not mandatory. I should know, because I went to a prototypically poor high school with an (mostly) apathetic student body. Those apathetic people today have by and large done nothing with themselves.


As for the topic itself, I deliberately have avoided "Waiting For Superman" because of the poor journalism(aka "truthiness) inherent in it.


Sun May 22, 2011 4:02 pm
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Post Re: Education Reform in the US
Will Hatch wrote:
This may sound irresponsible(not to mention off topic), but why should we care about the education of students who clearly have no interest in going to school? I'm not sure that the workforce would be significantly effected if high school were not mandatory. I should know, because I went to a prototypically poor high school with an (mostly) apathetic student body. Those apathetic people today have by and large done nothing with themselves.


As for the topic itself, I deliberately have avoided "Waiting For Superman" because of the poor journalism(aka "truthiness) inherent in it.


Tbh I find a lot of the critiques to be Teacher Union talking points. I'm not saying that there's no room for criticism, but I think that you should definitely see it, because it has an important message.

In regards to the issue of why we should care, two reasons:
1) This is where our tax money is going!
2) This is the future of the country. As they fail we fail.

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Sun May 22, 2011 5:32 pm
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