[Just In] JPS Superintendent's Remarks on Full Funding | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Just In] JPS Superintendent's Remarks on Full Funding

These are the remarks of Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Earl Watkins today at a press conference at the Department of Education calling for the governor and the hold-out members of the Senate to adequately fund public education.

[verbatim] I am aware that many people think that schools have "fat" budgets and that we should streamline and cut costs. For JPS, I assure you that this is not the case. We are working diligently to make certain that we operate in a manner that keeps us financially sound. However, we are a human growth and development organization. All organizations that fall into this category need people - the right people - in order to initiate positive change in the lives of the customers that we serve.

Please consider this comparison. If Nissan receives parts that have not been prepared well for use in building a state-of-the-art car, Nissan can return the parts for better ones.
If schools receive students who have not had good prenatal care, proper preschooling, and/or instruction in appropriate values, can these students be returned? Of course not - we serve the public, no matter the condition.

Therefore, how do we work with students who have not been made ready to learn? How can we produce "state-of-the-art" students when we are always operating in a social deficit? Current brain research into early childhood experiences is clearly reporting that the supports generally given by home situations in the past, and that have prepared and supported children from birth to school age, are often not available to our children today.

As a result, we must address issues that affect how well a child learns in ways never before so widely needed. We need the right people on board - all hands on deck so to speak.
We need the nurses, social workers, psychologists, and access to many other social interventions in order to repair families and to teach children. This part of our work is not "fat." It is an essential ingredient to the success of children in school.

Jackson Public Schools will be underfunded by $11 million.
* Approximately 150 Jackson Public School Teachers could be laid off.
* Schools will be underfunded for the second year in a row. Last year, JPS was underfunded by the legislature by $3,000,000 dollars.
* Gifted education, exceptional education, vocational education, arts programs, and student support services may have to be trimmed.
* JPS will be faced once again with having to divert building maintenance funds to teacher salaries - and try to keep our old schools glued together one more year. JPS school buildings are, on the average, 47 years old.
* If incentives are eliminated for National Board Certified teachers, more than 100 JPS National Board Certified teachers, counselors and speech pathologists will see their salaries drop by $3,000 to $6,000.

Keep in mind that JPS spends only 3.8% of its total annual expenditures on administrative salaries, $576,000 LESS than the maximum allowed by state law. You have been led to believe that administrative salaries only encompass school building and central office administrators. That is not the case. Administrative salaries include positions such as business office clerks, central office secretaries and receptionist, human resource clerks, and technology analysts.

As parents and adults, we are the bows from which our children, as living arrows, are sent forth to the world of tomorrow. My job as a parent is to give my children the strongest, most powerful release into the future.

As the superintendent of the state's largest school system, I know that our system must be poised to launch all of our students toward tomorrow with as much preparation, passion and purpose as we possibly can. You must give us the support that we need to do that.
The futures of our children and our whole state rest upon your willingness to step up to the plate and do what's right.

Previous Comments

ID
137689
Comment

"As parents and adults, we are the bows from which our children, as living arrows, are sent forth to the world of tomorrow." I like the paraphrase of Gibran but a lot of it seems like blaming the quality of student for lack of quality in education.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-03-31T17:28:53-06:00
ID
137690
Comment

I don't think so. The point was that the school system regularly deals with very bad students, and thus needs good funding so it can use/hire services to help ameliorate the problem. And what would be so insane about suggesting that a bad grade schooler could in part be because of a poor preschool program?

Author
Walker Sampson
Date
2005-04-01T08:24:53-06:00
ID
137691
Comment

It is a cop-out that is almost universal now. Blame the student. The fact is that education is a two way operation -- if the student didn't learn, then the teacher didn't teach. I am a little tired of "We only get bad students from rotten parents -- it is not our fault!"

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-01T09:51:55-06:00
ID
137692
Comment

You are truly missing the point, Iron. Educators must teach children as they come into the system. In the case of Jackson Public Schools, that means teaching students from poor economic backgrounds with few family resources and experiences needed for early development. I don't think anything in the superintendentís remarks blamed parents or created scapegoats for teachers. In fact, I think he was saying just the opposite: It IS the schools' responsibility to teach the kids regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances. But to be able to accomplish that, he is saying, the schools need the resources to bring the kids quickly "up to speed" and overcome the impoverishment that leads to being unprepared.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-01T10:46:18-06:00
ID
137693
Comment

"If schools receive students who have not had good prenatal care, proper preschooling, and/or instruction in appropriate values, can these students be returned? Of course not - we serve the public, no matter the condition. " Bad Students! Bad Parents! The schools need much more money -- they need more teachers and pay raises for those already on board. The need more modern equipment and infra-structure. What they don't need is someone saying that more money is needed because of the poor quality of parents and children of "those people".

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-01T10:53:26-06:00
ID
137694
Comment

So, Iron, are you saying that children are passive vessels waiting for the school system to fill them? That home life has no bearing on how children learn? That it's impossible for children to take any responsibility for their own education? I'm really not sure where you're going with this line of thinking, and I'm wondering why you're jumping on some pretty innocuous language in order to get all worked up. I mean, where does he say that lack of prenatal care is the parents fault? To me, that's part of a huge issue for America - medical care is expensive, and almost impossible to get for many people. Pre natal resources for the uninsured are extremely limited. Working mothers can have a very difficult time finding appropriate care. Where's the middle ground between "welfare queen" and "working mother who doesn't 'put her family first'? Early childhood education, prenatal care, and support systems for new moms are complex issues. This cuts to the heart of alot of societal issues, and to get all annoyed and dismissive really limits the debate.

Author
kate
Date
2005-04-01T11:24:19-06:00
ID
137695
Comment

You are probably right and I should have stayed out of this one. I don't think any child is un-teachable and I see the public system as almost hopelessly inefficient and as always putting the blame elsewhere. In an ideal world there would be no public school system --

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-01T11:51:21-06:00
ID
137696
Comment

I must ask you Iron...why did you say "In an ideal world there would be no public school system" ? You must be a fan of Barbour's book, but I'm not sure. You seem to agree that public schools need more money, and you seem to agree that public schools are supposed to teach a child regrdless of their background. However, you see public schools as being totally inefficient. What do you see as an alternative? An ideal world where everyone can afford personal tutors or private schools? In a world like this, children wouldn't have diverse economic backgrounds, and all would get proper healthcare and resources that would allow them to learn as best they can from the home. Please elaborate on that comment more.

Author
Brett Potter
Date
2005-04-03T00:44:01-06:00
ID
137697
Comment

"You must be a fan of Barbour's book, but I'm not sure. " No. I was nor aware that he has a book but, to this point, I have not been impressed with him. Publicl schools (demonstrably) are totally in-efficient and are the worst option now available to us -- except to those of us for whom they are the only option. They are better than no school at all. Just. Charter schools and various "Neighborhood" systems are being tried with some sucess but I don't see a viable replacement for the public system yet and that is why I say they need more money. We owe every child an opportunity to be educated and, for some, there is no other alternative so we should make the public system as good as it can be.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-03T09:21:39-06:00
ID
137698
Comment

Iron: [quote]We owe every child an opportunity to be educated and, for some, there is no other alternative so we should make the public system as good as it can be.[/quote] Iron, I think you just agreed with every word the superintendent said...

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-04T07:59:56-06:00
ID
137699
Comment

It is a cop-out that is almost universal now. Blame the student. The fact is that education is a two way operation -- if the student didn't learn, then the teacher didn't teach. How is that two-way? Sounds very one-way to me. I agree that education is a two-way operation. I do not agree with your final formulation. Sometimes teachers do their damnedest to teach kids who just aren't willing or able to learn, just as sometimes, teachers fail to teach even adequately despite the fact that they have well-prepared students who are eager to learn. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-04T10:18:11-06:00
ID
137700
Comment

I would argue that it's more than two-way. Kids often aren't willing, or equipped, to learn because they grew up in a culture that doesn't value education, or makes fun of it, whether it's their hip-hop buddies or some ignorant ideologue calling someone trying to know things elitist because they know some the igno doesn't. It's growing up in neighborhoods of hopelessness where kids don't believe than can learn or be something. It's growing up as the child of parents who don't value education because they weren't taught to, or not allowed to have a good one. That is, it's a multi-pronged problem that demands many solutions. Trying to blame just one component is dumb.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T10:36:44-06:00
ID
137701
Comment

We are not that far apart but I firmly believe Public Education -- as we have known it up to now -- is a failed system. We should continue to support it and make it as good as it can be while we (as rapidly as possible) replace it with something more efficient and effective. Much of the time, effort, and money devoted to education via the public system is simply wasted. Not that there is anyone to point a finger at but even with the best of intentions and valiant effort the waste will always be there. It is built in.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T12:25:56-06:00
ID
137702
Comment

We are not that far apart but I firmly believe Public Education -- as we have known it up to now -- is a failed system. I absolutely disagree. It has not failed, even though some mighty forces have tried to bring it down and still are. It's also important to note how many of the private efforts to run schools (such as Edison Project) have been dismal failures. Truth is, educating young people is not easy, nor should it be. If the public-school system wasn't continually under attack from the right, starting the day Brown v. Board passed (public schools were the American way before then), then we wouldn't see many of the problems that we do: demonization of teachers running them out of the field. Underfunding the neediest schools so that you can then close them for being failures. Filling kids days with multiple-choice tests (or preparing for them) so they can't learn to think for themselves. If we believe in our schools and stand behind them and fight the idiots who want them closed (remember when the state of Mississippi voted to close the public schools rather than integrate them? many of those same idiots are still around), then they will be everything we want them to be and more. Not a moment of time supporting public education is wasted. Not one second.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T12:34:00-06:00
ID
137703
Comment

We are not that far apart but I firmly believe Public Education -- as we have known it up to now -- is a failed system. We should continue to support it and make it as good as it can be while we (as rapidly as possible) replace it with something more efficient and effective. What would that be? Much of the time, effort, and money devoted to education via the public system is simply wasted. Not that there is anyone to point a finger at but even with the best of intentions and valiant effort the waste will always be there. It is built in. How is it "built in"? I don't really buy that. You'll have to convince me (and I don't think I'm the only one! :-)). And Donna, I agree with what you wrote, that it is a multi-sided problem that demands a multi-pronged approach to solve. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-04T12:34:34-06:00
ID
137704
Comment

Tim -- I have said that we MUST support it and at a much better level than we have been doing until we devise something better that can be applied across the board. We do have better systems now but they would be difficult, if not impossible to apply to the whole population. I think the problem (in this discussion) is that we keep talking about the politics of public education while I wander off into the concept itself. Many of us can't afford Home Schooling (which has demonstrated it's inherent superiority over the present system) but we can, and should, move toward something that will incorporate as many as possible of it's better qualities.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T12:42:09-06:00
ID
137705
Comment

Tim -- I have said that we MUST support it and at a much better level than we have been doing until we devise something better that can be applied across the board. We do have better systems now but they would be difficult, if not impossible to apply to the whole population. I think the problem (in this discussion) is that we keep talking about the politics of public education while I wander off into the concept itself. Many of us can't afford Home Schooling (which has demonstrated it's inherent superiority over the present system) but we can, and should, move toward something that will incorporate as many as possible of it's better qualities. That's part of an answer...but what's better about home schooling? And I'm still not buying that waste is "built in" to the public school system. Not until you convince me, anyway :-). Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-04-04T12:52:11-06:00
ID
137706
Comment

Iron, do you have any data on 'the superiority of home schooling?' Links to some studies perhaps? What are home schooling's 'better qualities?' And, while you're at it, some data on the waste in the system? And the failure? You're putting forth some very sweeping opinions, with absolutely nothing to back them up.

Author
kate
Date
2005-04-04T14:26:24-06:00
ID
137707
Comment

Better than "nothing". I am a partial product of public school and the father of 5 students. We used the public system some -- tried private and charter schools and finished up with Home schooling. This is anectdotal I know but there are published studies out there too. We found that, while all our children achieved top grades where-ever they went -- home-school gave (by far) the best results for the effort and time invested. I am beginning to susp[ect that Ms Ladd may be a teacher and, justifiably, resents my saying that "If the student didn't learn -- the teacher didn't teach". That should not automatically be seen as a criticism of the particular teacher. Suppose the teacher REALLY, REALLY tried but nothing worked? Then an attempt has been made but it failed. I think that, even the best and most dedicated teacher is likely to fail way too often in the public system. Waste. One thing that is wasted in most schools is the time invested by the student. They spend all day in school and are sent home with more work to do at home. Wasteful at best.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T14:49:14-06:00
ID
137708
Comment

Haven't we had this discussion with someone else, ladd? And they couldn't come up with data or definitions for their claims either. Public education is NOT a failure. Perhaps it has some inefficiencies, but all human institutions have some inefficiencies-- home schooling, for example. Ms. ladd is not a teacher in public schools, though I think she has taught at the college level where students either made it or they were out. (Forgive me if I have this wrong about you.) Anecdotal evidence is only good if every believes the same anecdotes, much to the delight of all the chicken littles out there.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-04T15:12:29-06:00
ID
137709
Comment

Iron: One thing that is wasted in most schools is the time invested by the student. They spend all day in school and are sent home with more work to do at home. Wasteful at best. I don't consider this a waste. This is done to keep them working independently and to keep the pace of progress moving in the most EFFICIENT manner given the few days American students actually attend school. I WANT my daughter to have home work and I want her to do it independently to prove as much to herself as to me that she can do the work. Homework is not a waste but a necessity to cover all the material needed to be learned and learned well.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-04T15:16:32-06:00
ID
137710
Comment

GDI -- A minimum amount of research on your part would satisfy any curiousosity about this. Those with experience in both already know that Home-Schooling is the ideal but they also know that it can not be made possible for everyone. Any school still assigning home work has failed. There are charter schools (public) in many neighborhoods now that NEVER assign home work. When the student has been there all day their evenings should belong to them. Like a job. If you know a student doing 2-4 hours of homework and achieving top GPA -- did you know that the same student will achieve the same GPA with an average of 3-4 hours total study in a home school setting? What did the hours in school contribute?

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T15:23:00-06:00
ID
137711
Comment

"I WANT my daughter to have home work and I want her to do it independently to prove as much to herself as to me that she can do the work. Homework is not a waste but a necessity to cover all the material needed to be learned and learned well." This is a common myth easily dispelled by a very little study of what is actually happening.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T15:24:58-06:00
ID
137712
Comment

Please cite references for your minimal research. I can give you a lot of anecdotal information on home schooling to: Cases of nothing being taught all day and "students" watching TV while the home schooling parent sleeps or talks on the phone. Cases where a child is home schooled for a year and then, on threat of court action tries to claim a learning disability and places the student in a special school only to find out the child needed glasses. My point is anecdotes mean nothing. Your argument lacks data. And since you make the assertion that home schooling is superior, that homework is unnecessary, and that publi education is "hopeless," you need to back it up.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-04T15:29:23-06:00
ID
137713
Comment

Yes, GDI, we have been down this road. If someone knows the link to that thread, please post so we don't feel compelled to repeat ourselves. I don't have time today to dig for it. No, Iron, I'm not a teacher -- or at least the type you're talking about. I've taught journalism at the university level (public) and assist-taught at the graduate level in the Columbia J-school (a course about reporting about children and education). I teach my own writing seminars. No, I'm not even trained as a K-12 teacher, although I did take education law courses jointly taught at Teachers College and the law school at Columbia so I could address issues like school discipline, equity, desegregation and affirmative action in my stories in a relatively informed way. I also regularly speak to K-12 students about writing and journalism as a career option. And I had a six-month fellowship to study the problems of school discipline from the Casey/Child & Family Policy program at the University of Maryland. Now, credentials aside--more importantly, why would you assume that I'm a teacher because I believe in the public schools!?!? That's the most disturbing part of your post to me. The truth is, my life was changed by public-school teachers who were over-worked and underpaid: Oneida Hodges and Allene Salter (Sid's mama) leading the pack. Those are my primary motivations for believing in the power of public schools. This kind of reminds me of the anti-Harvey Johnson guy over on the Ledge's forum questioning someone who was asking questions of Melton and who said she was a teacher. He declared that she was actually a Johnson operative -- because, he said, teacher can't write that well! And, it seems, because only people who work for the mayor would question is opponents. This logic is astounding to me. Enough said on it. A good book, if you can get your hands on it, is "The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud and the Attack on Public Schools" by David C. Berliner (ed and psych prof at Arizona State) and Bruce J. Biddle (psych/sociology professor and director of the Center for Research in Social Behavior at the University of Missouri -- at least those were their positions when the book was published in 1995 by Addison-Wesley Books).

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T15:48:00-06:00
ID
137714
Comment

Also, I can be very critical of teachers as well -- such as in my work on zero tolerance policies. But that's a different topic. Iron, it is just silly to say that I must be a teacher because I said that it was simplistic to just blame a student's learning problems on bad teaching. Sure, that is going to contribute, but so are lots of other factors. Is this really that hard to comprehend? Must there always be an easy scapegoat for every problem? Either this or that? Of course, that's seldom the case.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T15:52:04-06:00
ID
137715
Comment

"The truth is, my life was changed by public-school teachers who were over-worked and underpaid: " Mine too. Underpaid and overworked in a system that was beginning to fail even then. The SYSTEM was failing -- the teacher was first rate! We had a problem (once upon a time) of trying to cram 12 years of education in between the ages of 6 and 18. Some students just could not accomplish a year of learning in a year of time. We found that we were spending (Sometimes) 13-14 or even 15 years to accomplish 12 years of learning. We "solved" that by adding Kindergarten (almost across the board) to our public system. Not enough so we continued. We are now spending 13-15 years to instill a 12th grade education. Where to next?

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T16:17:15-06:00
ID
137716
Comment

he SYSTEM was failing -- the teacher was first rate! As I would say to my students or writers: enough rhetoric, Iron. Time to get specific. It's one think to pronounce the whole system "failing" -- that's too easy and doesn't help a damn thing -- now why don't you break it down? Ask why? What are the challenges for the public-school system? What are problems that can be solved? What will it cost to fix them? What are the political pressures? What are myths about public schools that are causing the public not to support them? And so on. Rhetoric means nothing. Sound and fury, and all that jazz.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T16:20:46-06:00
ID
137717
Comment

Well said, Ladd! "Ask why? What are the challenges for the public-school system?" To deliver one year of education for one year of effort.It can be done and is being done in other systems. "What are problems that can be solved?" We can learn from Private, Charter and even home schools what actually works and we can adapt SOME of it to the needs of the students who have nowhere else to go. "What will it cost to fix them?" More than we can afford and still it will be worth every penny. "What are the political pressures?" The Status Quo will be fiercely defended by State & Federal Government Bureaucracies, Teacher's Unions and others with a vested interest. Rascists (they are still among us) will continue to resist anything that moves us toward a semblance of equality. State's Rights advocates will continue to try to get the Feds out of it. The Federal Bureacracy will continue to attempt something approaching "micro-management" by threatening to withold funds. etc., ad infinitum Nothing we CAN'T handle. "What are myths about public schools that are causing the public not to support them? And so on." You and I will not agree on the myths. My Myth is likely to be your fact and vice-versa. The Government (Whether Federal, State or Local) never does anything very well and they are better at almost anything than they are at education. We need a serious look at alternatives. "Rhetoric means nothing. Sound and fury, and all that jazz." What?? A tale told by an idiot! (Surely you didn't mean it that way!?)

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-04T17:25:08-06:00
ID
137718
Comment

Iron, please provide LINKS to actual research, and/or cite some data. I've known home schooled kids who were great, and some who were just plain freaky and didn't know much. And the same for public school kids. And so forth. Anecdotes don't mean much. How does a home schooled kid earn a GPA, much less the same GPA as a kid enrolled in a school? Please, just one link to some data, one citation of an actual study that supports your points, whatever they are. If you want to be an advocate for home schooling, great. Just learn what it means to be an advocate. That you need more than your own opinions. As my former boss used to say, people don't just change their minds. They come to new decisions based on new information. Please give me new *information*. Not new *opinion* and not rhetoric about "failing" and "better" and so forth. Actual specific data or research or something. Please learn to argue. You obviously have alot to say, but you're not furthering your causes by being so vague.

Author
kate
Date
2005-04-04T17:43:37-06:00
ID
137719
Comment

Kate's right, Iron, you're still talkin' more rhetoric than facts and specifics. I'm not learning anything here. Give me something to think about and chew on. Back up your proclamations about the public schools. Suggest some changes. Become part of solution. Be the change. (OK, I'm going rhetorical on you back, but you get my point.) Facts, dude/tte.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T17:50:10-06:00
ID
137720
Comment

Also, you want an alternative, give us an alternative to think about. If not, why not focus on improving what we already have? Starting with beating down the myths about public schools. And, no, I'm not with you on your statement there: Facts win every time, when you can actually get people to present them and think about them. I know way out of vogue, but the right thing is the right thing.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T17:52:39-06:00
ID
137721
Comment

I was homeschooled K-12, but have two public school teachers--one active, one retired--in the family. I also personally know people who have been chewed up and spit out by JPS--as well as people who thrived there and credit their success to it. Here's the situation as I see it: - Every statistic I've seen suggests that homeschoolers outperform public school kids on standardized tests. I can find statistics if anyone needs them, but I think we can all agree that a sane, committed adult with the necessary time and at least a basic education level, working one-on-one with a student every day, is going to have better luck than any adult working with 30 students every day. It's an easier row to hoe; you can individualize the curriculum, spend as much time as you want on problem areas, and guarantee attendance. There's no way any public school system can compete with a competent homeschooling parent--not even when it comes to socialization, because homeschooling parents can help their kids find social outlets that are healthier and more diverse than those offered by their local public schools. - But to say homeschooling isn't for everyone is a gross understatement. Most parents probably can't homeschool, and of the parents who do, some probably shouldn't. - The reason the public school system is failing isn't just the government, just the teachers, just the parents, or just the students. It's the fact that the public school system has an impossible mission. There was a time when public schools didn't have to educate everybody, including the poor and marginalized; now they do. There was a time when public schools received a better chunk of public money, when teachers had smaller classes, when students who failed were losers and students who committed themselves were respected rather than vice versa. - The solution? There isn't one. Address every possible area of the problem--throw money at the public school system like it was our number one priority (because it should be), be open to innovative ideas, watch out for incompetent teachers and administrators (because they are an epidemic problem), find some way to encourage parents to participate more fully in their children's education, and do what we can as members of society to change the culture that says that paying attention and trying to do well academically makes you boring. And then count on the fact that this is a problem we will never completely solve, and stop being so hard on people who are trying to do what they can. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-04T18:37:10-06:00
ID
137722
Comment

Well, I attended a tiny Catholic Parochial school K-8 and Private Academies in rural areas 9-12, so I think I can see both sides of the issue. Smaller class sizes can help (my graduation class was only 33 students, so it could hardly be anything but small). On the whole, my teachers were truly dedicated, though not always inspiring (on balance, I'd say they were average). I think a large part of the problem is that the teachers have to REALLY S-E-L-L their subject material to the students - as answering the question "What possible point is there in you learning literature?" Had even one of my English teachers really sold us on the value of literature - continually impressing that value upon our senses - I can all but assure you that I would have dove into English and American Lit with more enthusiasm (and hence made better grades). Same thing with other subjects. For the most part, you weren't really INSPIRED to learn them, they were forced upon you without question. In short, HOW you teach something is just as important than what you teach. Independent study in a field of their choice would be something else I'd add -- it allows students to find themselves much more quickly than the structured, formal, mainstream curriculum. Of course, you have to screen sources of information in this Internet-driven age, but most teachers could probably handle it. If you ask me this "you learn this, these, those, and that; end of story" method of teaching is a throwback to the industrial era, where factory workers were taught how to do their tasks but were not taught how to question those tasks. So in that sense, our public school system as it currently stands is a throwback to the Industrial Era (and even many private schools too - especially the ones in the rural counties). I agree fully with Tom regarding the social environment of schools, even though I want to see public schools reformed as any of us do. Tom's right in that home school vs public/private school is a matter for the individual. Now that the Internet lets kids have access to information about all subjects under the sun written at any knowledge level, I think homeschools (and institutional schools too) should really emphasize this aspect of learning.

Author
Philip
Date
2005-04-04T20:42:44-06:00
ID
137723
Comment

Let me qualify my "public school system is failing" comment: I'm not saying that it is a failure in the sense that it is a waste of funds (on the contrary: it needs more), or that it doesn't meet some students' needs (on the contrary: I think it meets the needs of a majority--albeit a not-overwhelming majority--of students). It's failing because if we set the bar high enough, any institution will fail. If we say that the objective of our health care system is to keep even one of its patients alive, then it is a complete and total failure because everybody eventually dies. "One year of learning for one year of work" is a nonsense standard because there is no such thing as one uniform year of learning. People learn different things at different rates in different areas. Personally, I would like it if we could completely ditch the whole idea that time equals learning and switch to a grade system that's based on performance, not the chronological year of study. That's what I did, and that's why I was able to finish up at 14 and move on to college. If you've got a 10-year-old who can handle grade 12 English, let her do it. If you've got a 19-year-old who is still working on grade 12 English, let her do it. Our system, as it exists now, is based too much on peer socialization and not enough on meeting the academic needs of the students. That isn't what makes it a failure, though. What makes it a failure is that we expect it to fly to the moon and back. If we say that the objective of the public school system is to prepare 50% of its students for some kind of college experience and retain at least an additional 25% for high school graduation, then our system is very close to success--and until we find constructive ways to reform the system, that's probably all we should expect from it. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-04T20:57:01-06:00
ID
137724
Comment

By any objective measure, Mississippi public schools have been a tremendous success over the last 40 years, despite a paucity of funding. Dropout rates are down dramatically. Test scores are up. Public education is so huge that judging it becomes tantamount to judging Mississippians in general. To me, the issue is one of student motivation. We all know stories of highly motivated students from dire backgrounds who somehow were motivated and succeeded tremendously. With motivation, any teacher can succeed. Without it, no amount of money will prevail. So where does this motivation come from and how do you create it? I don't see the public schools as the problem. I see the problem as a cultural one. Far too many students learn to scorn education as wonkish, nerdish etc. and opt out of the system. Some of it an anti-materialistic view that denigrates postponing current enjoyment for future wealth. So how do you promote a value system that values education? Figure that out and public education will be fine. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. In this sense, I don't see how you can blame the public schools for a problem that is cultural in its roots. You might as well blame the bricks.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2005-04-04T21:48:26-06:00
ID
137725
Comment

Good response. I think we each must figure out what role we can play to help, from mentoring individual students and interns to more systemic assistance. For instance, we in the media can do more to promote the successes of the public schools, to help young people (and teachers and parents) change that culture into one that is celebrated and revered. That can be as simple as running lots of photos and success stories about the public schools -- at least as many as the horror stories. And it means investigating the facts behinds the myths before we present them as objective fact. Just a start.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-04-04T21:52:42-06:00
ID
137726
Comment

I am intrigued by the relationship between education and materialism. I mean, all the "educated, successful" people act as though it is obvious that this is the right way to live. However, many Mississippians reject institutionalized education and its resultant material wealth. "Study hard, get an education and you will get a good job, make money and have a two-car garage." That's what we preach. What we fail to understand is that large swaths of our population reject this materialistic viewpoint from the get-go. Mississippi has long been famous for being laid back, relaxed, an alternative to the rat race. I mean, if we all studied hard and got smart, Mississippi would be another Connecticut. Don't get me wrong. I am firmly in the get an education and get a job camp. But I think many of us fail to appreciate that a large segment of our population just doesn't buy into this view of happiness.

Author
Wyatt Emmerich
Date
2005-04-04T22:14:44-06:00
ID
137727
Comment

Among the many excellent comments here, I think some of the most pertinent were in pointing out the fallacies of comparing public education and home schooling. Public education typically has a teacher/student ratio of 1/25. Home schooling, even in Iron's personal anecdote above, is rarely more than 1/5. You give public education a ratio of even 1/10 in every classroom K-12 and you will see amazing things. Public education must, as Tim and others have pointed out, take in and educate all students, regardless of background, regardless of economic state and resources, and regardless of home life. (Which is what the superintendent was saying and how this thread started). This is not the case of either home schooling or private schools. And charter schools essentially function like private schools. Public education cannot be compared with the other systems with any validity since one cannot compare apples and oranges. And the link to the previous public schools discussion is here.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-05T09:06:33-06:00
ID
137728
Comment

"You give public education a ratio of even 1/10 in every classroom K-12 and you will see amazing things." True. This is one of the important things we can learn from home school experience that may make public schools better.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T09:15:19-06:00
ID
137729
Comment

OK-- Go call Tuck, Gordon, Chaney and Barbour and tell them to give schools the money to implement a 1/10 teacher ratio. Hell, Barbour's original reform bill wanted to do away with maximum limits on teacher student ratios!

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-05T09:18:32-06:00
ID
137730
Comment

There you go! We need to enlist public support to demand a reduction in student/teacher ratios. Do we have studies to demonstrate that this will significantly improve the situation in Public Schools?

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T09:25:52-06:00
ID
137731
Comment

You asked for it... You can find all kinds of research backing reduced class sizes and improved student performance. Start with ReduceClassSizeNow.Org Here are a few more: Studied connections between class size and teaching interactions using a multimethod approach and data from a longitudinal study of more than 10,000 children and their teachers over 3 years. Results show, overall, that in smaller classes, there is more individualized teacher support for learning.: Relationships between Class Size and Teaching: A Multimethod Analysis of English Infant Schools. Author: Blatchford, Peter; Moriarty, Viv; Edmonds, Suzanne; Martin, Clare Availability: Hudson Institute, P.O. Box 26-919, Indianapolis, IN 46226 Provides reasons why class size and school size are important school improvement ideas; highlights findings of selected research on class size and school size; relates personal teaching experience supporting benefits of both small classes and small schools: Small Classes, Small Schools: The Time Is Now. Author: Wasley, Patricia A. Availability: One City Centre, Suite 200, 120 W. Seventh St., Bloomington, IN 47404-3925 Conducted a 6-year followup of almost 4,000 students in Project STAR in Tennessee, a 4-year, large-scale randomized experiment on the effects of class size. Though follow-up data could not be obtained on more than one-half of the students, class size effects persisted for at least 6 years and remained large enough to be of importance for educational policy. Results show the lasting benefits of class size reduction in early grades.: The Long-Term Effects of Small Classes in Early Grades: Lasting Benefits in Mathematics Achievement at Grade 9. Author: Nye, Barbara; Hedges, Larry V.; Konstantopoulos, Spyros The list could go on for more space then I am allowed here. But to make this well rounded, also read EDUCATION FUNDING AND LOW-INCOME CHILDREN: A REVIEW OF CURRENT RESEARCH from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which discusses a variety of strategies for improving low-income student performance; all of which takes additional funds.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-05T09:54:47-06:00
ID
137732
Comment

I believe this sort of bears out my contention that SOME of what we have learned from home schooling can be applied to public schools. Co-incidentally -- it shows one reason home schooling is superior.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T10:57:23-06:00
ID
137733
Comment

Actually, it does not show home schooling per se is superior. It shows smaller teacher/pupil ratios are superier.

Author
GDIModerate
Date
2005-04-05T12:15:25-06:00
ID
137734
Comment

I'm with GDI on this. Homeschooled students, on average, do outperform public school students--and the class size differential is, IMHO, the main reason why. But throwing around words like "superior" is obnoxious; there is no such thing as "superior." I know students who thrived in the public school environment who would have considered homeschooling a nightmarish experience. What we need is the best public school system money can buy, and then we need to still keep every other option on the table. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-05T13:01:06-06:00
ID
137735
Comment

Right on!

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T13:47:51-06:00
ID
137736
Comment

TH -- I believe we have all stipulated that home-schooling is not suitable for everyone. I suspect that your opinion as to class size being the main reason home-schoolers do better is something you are likely to grow out of if you pursue the subject just a little way into the future. SUPERIOR 1. situated higher up: UPPER 2. of higher rank, quality, or importance If, of course, we all agree that "there is no such thing as superior" then nothing is better than anything else and any attempt at improvement will fail.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T17:29:50-06:00
ID
137737
Comment

Iron, I'm a former co-author on the Bears' Guide series and for a time was considered one of the world's top authorities on distance learning. I've co-written four education-related titles. I was homeschooled K-12 myself, and have experienced several other classroom methodologies--correspondence, online, exam-based, even (gasp) traditional brick-and-mortar. I have posted literally thousands--possibly tens of thousands--of messages to education forums. I'm not saying this to whip it out and measure it; I'm saying this to let you know that education is something that I have a history of thinking a lot about. But there's a principle in science called Ockham's Razor, which says that when in doubt, it's usually best to go with the theory that requires the fewest number of additional theories. The obvious theory, here, is that a smaller class size allows room for more personal attention and individualized instruction. I think that's probably the main reason why homeschooling kids tend to outperform traditionally schooled kids on exams. There are clearly other advantages to homeschooling--such as flexibility--but they all basically trace back to small class size, as far as I can tell. If you have another explanation, please feel free to share it. I didn't mean to jump down your throat as much as I did on the "superior" issue, but I've used that word to describe homeschooling before and lived to regret it. Homeschooling is not always superior; in my case it obviously was a more appropriate choice than traditional schooling, and I think that is probably true of most homeschooled kids. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-05T18:13:47-06:00
ID
137738
Comment

Well, actually I sold myself short--it's five education-related titles, not four. My At Issue: Religion and Education anthology will be published this fall. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-04-05T18:14:48-06:00
ID
137739
Comment

"If you have another explanation, please feel free to share it. " Anectdotally the more important factor is motivation. I suspect that a very significant percentage of students and parents involved in home-school would be found to be highly motivated for success. This may account, in part, for why they seem to continue to perform (in college) at such high standards. My own five children did equally well in public school, private school and in the home environment. (It required a lot less time at home!) Motivation is cultural and we probably can't fix it. As you say we need "the best public school system money can buy" but I am interested in "Other Options" and we can't simply try to "fix" the system and do nothing. I see that course as being analogous to keeping a dinosaur on life support.

Author
Iron
Date
2005-04-05T19:04:37-06:00

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