Re: Guest Post - M. Night Shyamalan

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I am not sure what the surprise twist at the end is going to be, but I fear it will have been ripped off from "The Marching Morons".


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:09 PM
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Stop being a dick in hiring?

Not sure how that would shape out.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:13 PM
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M. Night has to watch all of his own movies?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:13 PM
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I'm still confused about the other recent M. Night Shyamalan surprising twist: did he really write She's All That, or not? His legacy clearly rests on this question.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:17 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:23 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:23 PM
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Has anybody attended to the TPM bookclub thing with Diane Ravitch recently? I have not. I'm a fan of hers.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 1:32 PM
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Has anybody attended to the TPM bookclub thing with Diane Ravitch recently? I have not. I'm a fan of hers.

My mom's been reading one of her books (not the one the TPM thing is about) and likes it a lot.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 2:53 PM
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As for Shyamalan, I think he's obviously right about what the problem is, but I'm not really convinced his list of recommendations is likely to fix it. I guess that's basically what heebie said.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 2:55 PM
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I understand separatating the principal and chief academic officer roles but don't see why he thinks they need to be separated the way he suggests. We have a districtwide chief academic officer who's a literacy specialist and runs the book rooms (each child is indivdually tracked for solo reading) and also keeps on top of the districtwide data, while each principal does data analysis and manages curriculum and does the day-to-day running of the school along with an assistant principal. I'd like to see this fit to individual strengths (see the Dasani story for the benefit of a strong principal-student bond) rather than we just assume it works a certain way.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 3:09 PM
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1: they got this guy Not Sure, he's gonna save the ecomony?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 3:17 PM
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The school system where my mom works added an assistant principal role in elementary schools recently. (Or maybe some of them already had it, but it expanded?) In general, it seems like an increase in the number of non-teaching professionals in the schools has been going on for a while, but I'm not sure if it's correlated with any improvement in outcomes. (Although it probably is, a lot, for special needs kids, though that might not show up in the statistics.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 3:42 PM
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The relationship of the suggestions to the problem is... distant at best.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 4:31 PM
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The ironic thing is that fixing poverty is easy. Just tax the well off and give it to the poor until they are above the poverty line. Boom. Poverty fixed.



Posted by: lemmycaution | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:12 PM
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I know I always link to ACES Too High, but I think that having trauma-aware discipline programs that aren't just about punishment and the school-to-prison pipeline can have a huge impact. Our school system hasn't gone as far as I'd like, but they've changed how they handle suspensions and have an administrator who works on that (I think in conjunction with the family relations coordinator and counselor for each school) and I hope this will have better outcomes than we've seen in the past.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:18 PM
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The relationship of the suggestions to the problem is... distant at best.

No, I think Drum's praise was mostly they they didn't seem like they would do much harm.

The post caught my attention because I was recently having a conversation with a friend in which they were talking about how often public schools are blatantly failing, and I was saying that based on international tests the US Public School system didn't do too badly, either compared to other countries, or historical results.

It was nice for me to see support for the idea that we were both correct -- there are major problems and, at the same time, there's no reason to think that there as systemic problems affecting all public schools across the country.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:22 PM
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But the schools aren't failing. Your friend is wrong. The schools just have students with lots and lots of problems, and as a society we're failing to serve those kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:42 PM
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I'm surprised that "give all schools the same amount of $ per student" didn't make the list. Stopping the (completely bizarre) rich neighbourhood = good school link, and its much more damaging counterpart, and the situation would be drastically altered.

Or am I missing something?


Posted by: parodie | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:43 PM
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14 is exactly right, too.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 5:44 PM
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But the schools aren't failing. Your friend is wrong.

That may be true, but I don't know that I know enough that I could say that with confidence (also, there were actually two people in the conversation, one of whom was a teacher the other has worked with High School students, so I definitely wasn't in a position to claim that they were flat-out wrong).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:00 PM
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18: I think that's probably a good idea, but not sufficient to fix the problems with schools (setting aside the issue of whether fixing the schools at all is the solution to the larger problems).

The two states I'm most familiar with (NM and AK) actually do provide a substantial portion of school funding at the state level based on formulas involving number of students. This funding is particularly important for rural school districts that don't really have local tax bases to speak of. Nevertheless, the schools in those areas are mostly still terrible.

The problem could be the remaining inequities in funding that would go away if all funding were provided by formula, or it could just be that the absolute amount of funding the state provides is too low and it doesn't matter what the formula is. I think the latter argument has been popular in recent years in Alaska to explain the continuing problems with rural schools. It's also not clear if a similar approach to the inequities between rich suburban school districts and poor urban ones would have the same effects. That isn't really an issue in either of these states.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:06 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:08 PM
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The ironic thing is that fixing poverty is easy. Just tax the well off and give it to the poor until they are above the poverty line. Boom. Poverty fixed.

This history of communism shows that implementation of this idea can be problematic, but the basic strategy is right.

Thing is, if people wanted to solve the problem of poverty, you would not need a taxation regime. La Rochefoucauld has a maxim that says something like "We have it in our power to end all suffering." The implication being that the problem is not our ability, but our will.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:08 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:08 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:09 PM
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18, 21: I've complained about this the last time the topic came up, but if parents are willing to pay to send their children to out-of-district wealthier schools, those schools get both the per-student fee and the additional tuition the parents pay, while the in-district poorer school would only get the per-student fee if the kids went where they were "supposed" to.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:17 PM
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Our district has the highest per-pupil expenditure in the state by a fairly large margin (on checking, it's actually second to a tiny district) but still has pretty low test scores because it has a lot of poor urban students. The high expenditure moved it up on some recent rankings that weighted expenditure as a measure of quality. X=X. QED.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:19 PM
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18 the (completely bizarre) rich neighbourhood = good school link

I don't think there's anything bizarre about it. And I don't think throwing money at the problem is going to completely solve it, either, although it could help quite a bit. The school system just doesn't have the power to provide a stable and secure home life for the kids who don't have one, and that is going to affect their academic performance.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:22 PM
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CA also allocates per student, though I'm not sure if there are hidden ways more goes to the wealthier districts, besides the obvious (donations). However, the state has recently changed the formula to allocate 20% more per student who is receiving free or subsidized lunch, an English learner, or a foster child. Then there's another 50% bump where such students are more than 55% of the total. I approve of this, in isolation at least.

I am also reading a lot lately about intra-district inequities: even with equal district funding, for whatever reason, resources still don't make it to the district's poorer schools. One aspect of this is that the senior, more experienced teachers typically move to more "desirable" schools within a district, and the new ones get sent to the less desirable.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:23 PM
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I also suspect, without actually knowing, that the mechanics of per-student funding penalizes economically disadvantaged areas another way: allocating by attendance rather than enrollment, which presumably is to "incentivize" schools to manage truancy well, but by the same token assumes all truancy is within their control.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:26 PM
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Another thing our (small though poor urban) district has done that I think helps is switch from neighborhood schools to age-based schools. So all the K-2 students in the city go to school with Mara and Nia and then go to the 3-5, 6-8, then high school, which cuts down on both bullying and economic disparities, and because all the schools are within a few blocks of each other, it's not a huge inconvenience for parents who drive or walk children to different schools.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:26 PM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 6:32 PM
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The history of Soviet communism has nothing to tell us about any concievable tax and transfer program in any western country.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 7:05 PM
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Aside from its use as a scare story, I suppose.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 7:08 PM
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One other thought.

Fix the underlying poverty and the schools will be fine.

That is my general opinion, and I think it is probably correct. But looking at the charts in the Kevin Drum post I also feel more impatient. It doesn't make me happy to think there is no obvious way to improve the public schools for students of color without fixing poverty (which isn't going to happen soon). It's 2013 and, it looks like the gap between white and minority students hasn't shrunk since 1992.

That may be the reality, but that still isn't okay.

I don't think people here would disagree with that, but it's still important to say.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 7:08 PM
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We've had a bunch of litigation over funding equality, and the result now is widely thought to be pretty good. Our constitution is fairly explicit:

(1) It is the goal of the people to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person. Equality of educational opportunity is guaranteed to each person of the state.

(2) The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.

(3) The legislature shall provide a basic system of free quality public elementary and secondary schools. The legislature may provide such other educational institutions, public libraries, and educational programs as it deems desirable. It shall fund and distribute in an equitable manner to the school districts the state's share of the cost of the basic elementary and secondary school system.

But of course, the money is a necessary but not sufficient condition.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 7:21 PM
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35: Yes.

I was intrigued by the big bump of about 20 points poor kids got from late 70s to early 90s. Isn't that the whole period failing inner / city crack / gang narrative was dominant? All the crack babies were really sneaking off to study a bit of algebra, perhaps. Or is my perception skewed because I happened to be alive then, but the hysteria was earlier and coincided with spikes in violent crime etc.


Posted by: conflated | Link to this comment | 12-14-13 11:29 PM
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It doesn't make me happy to think there is no obvious way to improve the public schools for students of color without fixing poverty (which isn't going to happen soon).

But unfortunately, this is my belief. Like Essear said above, "The school system just doesn't have the power to provide a stable and secure home life for the kids who don't have one, and that is going to affect their academic performance."

That said, schools are often the best access point for providing things like counseling and intervention and the stuff Thorn mentioned above. (Stuff which would be far less demanded if people had more financial stability, but nevertheless.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 7:49 AM
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There's a lot to be said for really equalizing resources, even if that wouldn't solve the whole problem. And by really equalizing resources, I don't just mean equalizing funding, because equalizing funding might turn out meaning that the nice suburban school gets an AP Physics class and someone to teach marching band, while the poor school needs to spend the same money on a trauma counselor. If your kids need extra services, that shouldn't mean that they lose academics and extracurriculars.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 7:53 AM
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Somewhere recently, I saw an article on a program somewhere that gave top-performing mid-career teachers a substantial pay raise for transferring to low-performing schools. Sort of merit pay, but not exactly. This sort of thing seems like an excellent idea to me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 7:55 AM
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40: It was Atlanta. 40K (total, not per year) to move from one city school to a worse performing city school. Even though the 40K ran out after a few years, they seem to have had success with people staying and having an impact.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 8:52 AM
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I also think that educational inequality is a reflection of more general inequality, rather than a cause of. We could try to solve inequality by sneaking in an entire social safety net for poor kids, but that is very money and labor intensive.* A more straightforward solution would be to try to eliminate/ameliorate poverty in general, which would then reflect in better educational achievement. I also think that, outside of a serious commitment to an in-school mini welfare state, spending per pupil can be a red herring. A certain amount of funding is needed for the basics, but poor schools can be sinkholes of funds and produce not much in return. Conversely, good teaching doesn't actually through the high school level require all that much fancy stuff and can be done on the cheap as long as there are good teachers and motivated students.**

*My elementary school did this, inc. offering free dental care.
**I went to the best public HS in my district, which also received the lowest $$ per pupil, the argument being that the school didn't need as much as other schools. The building was kind of run down inside and there weren't enough desks for some classes and our books were duct taped together, and there were 45 kids in my calculus class but none of that stuff actually impacted the quality of the education.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 9:05 AM
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I happen to be in a relationship with someone currently teaching 5-6 year olds, in an "urban environment".

She is a little strange. She incorporates Waldorf methods. (that isn't what makes her strange). She makes stuff at home to take to school to use to teach the difference between letters. The kids love her, to the point that she's having problems getting administrative crap done on the makeshift table in the hallway she has to work with, because kids mob her. Score-wise, she seems to be doing well, with all the caveats there.

She has been asked to look elsewhere. From a job that pays $500 a month (with debt forgiveness). She is on food stamps.

I don't believe the problem is lack of people who care. I also am not arguing union busting.

I think she should have a job dealing with kids. By any measure not involving politics, she is good at it, or at least
better than peers. Paying people $6k a year and forcing them on to food stamps seems to be a failure mode for attracting people with an MA who want to teach.

But what do I know, I'm a bay area fuckup looking for a job.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 9:07 AM
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FYI adequate funding of and for staff esp. support staff for high need students is something I consider to be part of "the basics."


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 9:08 AM
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38: Mara is really mad I wouldn' let her go to the coat drive. She keeps insisting she doesn't have a "big coat," because instead of the popular bubble coats she has Lands End ones that are good to negative a million degrees or something, and the principal said that anyone who needs a "big coat" should come get one.

We have a fantastic family resource coordinator at the school, who has extra clothes for kids who need them (or who wet themselves or break a sandal strap or whatever) and makes sure they go home with food bags on Friday if needed and hooks families up with services in the community, coordinated efforts for a family whose apartment burned down last year, all sorts of things that keep those details from being the job of the overburdened principal or school counselor. Someone like her should be right up there with Chief Academic Officer and whatever the new term for the principal was going to be in at least all high-poverty schools but probably everywhere.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 9:08 AM
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I don't believe the problem is lack of people who care.

This.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 9:41 AM
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She has been asked to look elsewhere.

The school wants her to leave? My goodness, they are barely paying her! Is this because of the problems finishing the admin stuff?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 10:02 AM
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Christ! to 44. Is that in the public sector? If so, how - some "fellowship" or other workaround?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 10:28 AM
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She must be part time, because that's not close to minimum wage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 10:32 AM
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37: I was intrigued by the big bump of about 20 points poor kids got from late 70s to early 90s. Isn't that the whole period failing inner / city crack / gang narrative was dominant?

If you graduated HS in the late 90s, at least for the first chunk of your primary schooling, you were benefiting from all of the anti-poverty stuff and educational reforms of the 60s and 70s. The failing innercity schools/gangs/crack babies narrative was invented precisely to undermine those reforms, get rid of the DFH teachers, clamp down on any kind of Free- or Open-schooling and most importantly siphon all that money away from the black people.

I remain 100% unconvinced that "throwing money at the problem" is not both a necessary and (at least partly) sufficient condition for improving inner city (or poor rural) schools. Of course, I'd like to see working-class education re-reformed, dump NCLB, dump standardized testing as anything other than a way to identify individuals who needed more help, open campuses, no cops in schools, etc. etc. But failing all that, just give 'em the fucking money.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 11:02 AM
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I saw an article on a program somewhere that gave top-performing mid-career teachers a substantial pay raise for transferring to low-performing schools.

On the federal level science and math teachers can get 17.5K of their loans forgiven after teaching five years in low income schools. My wife's in her fifth year and if she gets the full write off it'll almost wipe out the rest of her loans, which will be awesome.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 12:12 PM
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and there were 45 kids in my calculus class but none of that stuff actually impacted the quality of the education.

Class size tends to have less of an impact when it's a bunch of college track kids in an advanced class. When you're teaching the baser level classes in a poor area and the primary challenge is getting everyone to sit down shut up and do the work then the difference between 45 and 25 kids gets more significant.

no cops in schools

In an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary but in reality a decent school resource officer program helps maintain order at schools where you have gang affiliated students and such.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 12:29 PM
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This is our public to private thing in action. The debt forgiveness apparently makes it OK. I asked if she should be getting paid a modicum. She said, she wanted to do this.

Here I am, sending her money, but that is a different story.

She has apparently upset local staff, which is the reason. In both my and her defense, I am not there, and can only count on what I hear.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 12:34 PM
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decent school resource officer program

Right. Like seven year olds in handcuffs.

Think on the margin. Or, alternatively, what was it that you did in school, that should be arrestsble?


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 12:42 PM
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where you have gang affiliated students and such...Like seven year olds in handcuffs

Solid point, we're totally talking about the same things here.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 12:52 PM
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instead of the popular bubble coats she has Lands End ones that are good to negative a million degrees or something

Totally off the actual topic, but this reminds me that I was quite shocked to see on FB that a friendly acquiantance's six-year-old insisted on choosing her next coat herself because she had found the bubble jacket her mom had bought her to be humiliatingly uncool (on the basis of its puffiness!). What strange antiuniverse is her elementary school operating in?


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 1:38 PM
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When you're teaching the baser level classes in a poor area and the primary challenge is getting everyone to sit down shut up and do the work then the difference between 45 and 25 kids gets more significant.

Yes, which is why adequate staffing and support staff is necessary (see 45). My point was that, if students are not from poor backgrounds, good education can be extremely cheap. The reason why schools need so much money is because we're trying to address/solve poverty through schooling, rather than solve poverty more generally and have it be reflected in schooling, and the former is going to be an expensive endeavor which demands more than schools can reasonably deliver with our current education model. Throwing more but not adequate-to-the-task amounts of money at much of the current system may not necessarily help, as we either need to redesign the school model or try to solve poverty more directly.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 12-15-13 8:01 PM
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Why is this a question?

You can, in fact, have an MA and make less than a fast food wage.

I can hook you up. If you would like to talk to a human in this siitustion, please contact me, here, for a start.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-16-13 12:50 AM
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Why is this a question?

You can, in fact, have an MA and make less than a fast food wage.

I can hook you up. If you would like to talk to a human in this siitustion, please contact me, here, for a start.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-16-13 12:50 AM
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Sorry for posting twice. I'm grumpy.


Posted by: Grumbles | Link to this comment | 12-16-13 12:55 AM
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As it happens, there's an excerpt from the Shyamalan book in this month's US Airways magazine. It's about how he first got interested in the subject of education, and it's quite good.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-16-13 1:45 PM
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