Re: Locating The Suck


If 15% come from the bottom rung, maybe the 30% simply includes rungs 1 & 2. It's not like the second rung of society is exactly doing great.

I just got done arguing with a libertarian* about public schools in the US so I'm looking forward to seeing what people have to say about this. My impression is that the US public schools are just fine for the most part, with some particularly bad ones dragging the average down a bit.

*It's only a mistake to argue with libertarians if you take it seriously.

Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 7:53 AM
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By that standard, fewer than 15 percent of American students come from the bottom rung of society. And yet, Mr. Schleicher found, 65 percent of principals in American schools say at least 30 percent of their students come from disadvantaged families, the most among nations participating in the PISA tests.

I'm not going to read the article because that seems like it would be work. But I don't see why these two things are being presented as some kind of surprising contradiction. They have different levels of measurement and different standards for "disadvantaged."

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 7:57 AM
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1&2 are exactly right.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 8:08 AM
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At the tail end of the article,

There's the wide disparity in resources devoted to education, which flows naturally from a system of school finance based on local property taxes. There's the informal tracking that happens when smart children are grouped separately in gifted and talented classes while the less able are held back a year. Teachers are paid poorly, compared to those working in other occupations. And the best of them are not deployed to the most challenging schools.

Which is also exactly right.

Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 8:10 AM
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IT's probably also worth noting that public schools are like members of Congress: everybody thinks that they're terrible as a whole, but keeps voting for their own.

That doesn't apply to the significant number of people actually sending their kids to shitty schools, but they're a minority. IMO the vast majority of suburban schools/districts are fine*, and lots of urban schools as well (I wouldn't bet that there are a lot of urban districts that are fine as a whole; I suspect that even ones with mostly fine schools are still struggling with a lot of issues).

Comma splice, I think that Schleicher, the OECD guy, sounds like an ass with an agenda.

*"fine" meaning that most kids will have acceptable outcomes, and all who apply themselves will do well

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 9:24 AM
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Sorry, I comma spliced prematurely. The end of 5.2 was supposed to be: parents in "fine" schools may complain about specific things their kids experience, but tend to be basically satisfied. However, they're certain that other schools/districts are hellholes.

The thing is, schools are black boxes, and it's very hard to gauge them without actually sending your kid there. Even visiting, sitting in on a few classes, and talking with parents doesn't necessarily give an accurate picture, because it's all subjective, and test scores aren't very informative (they measure only a small part of the educational experience, and not very well). So you send your kid where you send them, and as long as it works out, you vaguely presume that you made "the right choice", which must mean that the other schools were wrong choices.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 9:31 AM
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And, just to be catty:

Our very good friends have sent their kids to the Env/ronmental Charter School, which is located at the edge of a major city park and uses it as a classroom--kids go on hikes every day, rain or shine or freezing cold*. The mother has worked for nonprofits involved with parks, and the father is an environmental reporter, so ECS was a no-brainer for them. But in general, the school has become a de facto free private school for bien pensant white liberals from the affluent East End, and AB & I are increasingly skeptical of the place.

Anyway, their eldest, Iris' age, has left ECS to go to 6th grade at CAPA, the district's public Creat/ve and Perform/ng Arts Magnet (Billy Porter of Kinky Boots is an alum). Before the year started, her mother expressed concern that A would be bored in science class, since obviously she'd be so much more advanced than those poor, ignorant kids from the public schools. I haven't heard anything about science, but the first time I asked how she was doing, I learned that she's really struggling with math, because it turns out that ECS isn't all that (she never had math trouble before). Meanwhile, Iris, coming from the 2/3 black Arts & Human/ties magnet hasn't missed a beat with math. Ha.

Point being, so much presumption about schools from the outside. It would be a natural thing to question whether a kid from a majority black public school could handle math at a private or suburban school, but it would literally never occur to anyone to ask whether a kid from the (almost) all-white charter school where all the smart parents** send their kids could handle math at a city school. But be sure that those presumptions are at the core of discussions of schools in America.

*come to think of it, I don't know if this is true, but that was the spiel when the place opened

**I'm pretty sure it's becoming the semi-official school of the Googlers

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 9:43 AM
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Actually, I'm not sure about Schleicher; the part that H-G quotes in 4 is apparently a paraphrase of him, and like her I agree with it. I just don't see how it flows into his conclusion, which is

In a country like the United States, with its lopsided distribution of opportunity and reward, social disadvantage will always pose a challenge. What's frustrating, Mr. Schleicher said, is "the inability of the school system to moderate the disadvantage."
None the foregoing can be laid at the feet of "the school system" in any meaningful way. They're the fault of the political system, and all schools can do is try to row against an overwhelming tide.

It's not clear to me whether he doesn't understand that, or if he's speaking elliptically, or what.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 9:47 AM
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I'm pretty sure it's becoming the semi-official school of the Googlers

The medical-industrial complex doesn't seem to send its kids there.

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 9:52 AM
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I finally got my mail after a move, and a $6 toll in August has accrued three $15 late fees each month, + a $30 final notice fee: $81 to drive 10 miles. Everything's bigger in Texas.

Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 10:09 AM
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9: Falk School.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 10:28 AM
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Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 10:31 AM
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We're becoming a bit worried about the school situation here. State culture of not spending money on education, plus an observable bias in favor of LDS kids on the part of LDS teachers and coaches have meant that some of my friend's kids are having a hard time fitting in, so they get referred to LDS counselors who ask probing questions like whether the kid is upset and acting out at school because Mommy has a job instead of being a stay-at-home mom.

Some LDS kids aren't allowed to play with non-LDS kids because we don't share their values. I have a job and I drink coffee, so the Calabat will probably hear that I'm a bad person who is going to hell and doesn't love him enough by the time he's ten. I am trying not to prejudge, as I also have friends whose kids are very happy at school, and I can probably always keep the Calabat in the faculty brat bubble, but man, it would be really nice to send him to the public elementary school just down the block.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 10:53 AM
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13: Ugh.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 12:41 PM
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13: You could really piss them off by saying, "At least you aren't trying to force Christianity on us."

Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 1:06 PM
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some of my friend's kids are having a hard time fitting in, so they get referred to LDS counselors who ask probing questions like whether the kid is upset and acting out at school because Mommy has a job instead of being a stay-at-home mom.

This is so viscerally repugnant; somehow it reminds me of the hopefully-famous passage from Orwell's essay on boarding school:

I was crying partly because I felt that this was expected of me, partly from genuine repentance, but partly also because of a deeper grief which is peculiar to childhood and not easy to convey: a sense of desolate loneliness and helplessness, of being locked up not only in a hostile world but in a world of good and evil where the rules were such that it was actually not possible for me to keep them. . . . this was the great, abiding lesson of my boyhood: that I was in a world where it was not possible for me to be good.

Posted by: lurid keyaki | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 2:03 PM
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5 & 7 together, as a gloomier view: the "fine" schools have a slowly sinking baseline and we're collectively unable to see them getting worse, in the same way as the eco school can't judge itself. We all feel OK except that mysteriously the polity can't do stuff it used to be able to do.

Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 2:29 PM
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17: Oh Lord, that is gloomy.

FWIW, I'm a bit skeptical that it's generally applicable to schools, because I think that, in a certain sense, teaching isn't that hard. Not that teaching is an easy job, but that, as long as certain standards are met (for resources, for institutional support, for students who are fed and healthy and tolerably willing), teachers will succeed at it--you don't need Apollo Program levels of talent, resources, and commitment. And while parents are ignorant about the status of other schools, I think they're collectively engaged enough in their own kids' education that they'll pick up shortcomings (hence the backlash to standardized testing, which on paper shouldn't be that threatening to high-performing suburban schools, which is why Arne Duncan was so surprised at the backlash from that direction).

I do think it's generally applicable to the US, though. Hell, look at that data about whites dying from, essentially, hopelessness. The line started bending almost 20 years ago, but nobody quite noticed.

Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11- 4-15 2:41 PM
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I was going to say what 8 said. We're seeing the effects of radical inequality and declining standards of living for the bottom 99%/50%/20% reflected through schools, and this isn't something one person with a master's degree standing in front of 30 kids can solve. Other developed countries have overall better schools because they overall have less inequality.

IHAMHBAN, my elementary school was a nationally-recognized "beating the odds" school, and that was because it very consciously created a liberal-fascist nanny welfare state within the school. (e.g. Yearly dental clinics on site, a health clinic, mandatory fluoride consumption,* on-site free daycare, evening adult education classes, extensive counseling services for students and parents, free shoes and backpacks to every student every year, free books, extensive after school programming, college scholarships for every student who met minimal requirements, etc). This all took lots of money, lots of highly trained personnel (my first grade teacher had a PhD in interracial education methods), and a superhuman amount of work by the principal to solicit donations from the community for free things and free services. It worked at that moment at that period in time, but it's hardly replicable on a larger scale unless we decide we want to backdoor social welfare through schools.

*We also didn't have fluoridated water, because hippies.

Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 11- 5-15 10:17 AM
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In addition to just better funding in the 80s, including a financial commitment to desegregation, I also think it was because it relied on the last generation of really high-achieving women who were funneled into education rather than something more high powered.

Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 11- 5-15 10:22 AM
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13: Huh, maybe a few more die hards up in the north? Hasn't been an issue down here.

Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 11- 5-15 10:31 AM
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21: SLC isn't majority Mormon, which probably helps.

Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11- 6-15 9:30 AM
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