Overheard on CNN: Debate between Ravitch, Rhee – Teacher: 'Just let me teach.'
August 16th, 2012
04:00 AM ET

Overheard on CNN: Debate between Ravitch, Rhee – Teacher: 'Just let me teach.'

Editors note: A recent Schools of Thought reader made this comment: "Equal air time for Ravitch – all this can and should be debated fairly – the blog space is welcome but insufficient." Diane Ravitch is scheduled to appear on CNN Newsroom Weekend with Randi Kaye this Saturday, August 18.

By John Martin, CNN

(CNN) – Education historian and professor Diane Ravitch took issue with a recent CNN appearance by former D.C. Schools chancellor Michele Rhee. Rhee and Ravitch both believe that quality teaching can make a difference in the classroom. But the two have fundamental differences in their beliefs about the quality of America's education system and its teachers.

Rhee told CNN, "The problem is that people don't understand where we stand right now in international rankings on academics. We are behind countries like Hungary and Luxembourg."  On Schools of Thought, Ravitch responded, "[Rhee] is obviously unaware that our nation has never had high scores on those tests. When the first international test was given in 1964, our students ranked 11th out of 12 nations. Yet our nation went on to become the most powerful economy in the world."

Rhee's organization, StudentsFirst, says on its website that "an effective teacher produces three times more learning than an ineffective teacher," but Rhee's critics, including Ravitch, say the group ignores the influence of poverty in America. Ravitch says that, "Family poverty is the most reliable predictor of low test scores," and that America has a much higher poverty rate than other countries.

Ravitch's response to Rhee was well-received by teachers, among others.

David L:  Finally someone with the guts and knowledge to say what is really going on. As a 30+ year veteran in the public schools I agree with Diane Ravitch. You cannot compare our public school performance given great variety of demographics with other countries. However, we should not dig a hole in the ground and discount what other countries are doing in education. We should try out some of their successes.

Dan H: Ravitch is correct in her criticism of Rhee, but too polite. Rhee simply does not know what she's talking about and has a huge political agenda. She was in the classroom for only two years before she fled to administration and that isn't enough time to learn or know much about teaching and education. A dirty little secret in the education business is that often teachers go into administration because they weren't particularly effective in the classroom.

Alice in PA: It seems as if people misunderstand Ravitch's comments about poverty. What the research shows is that there is a culture of poverty that tends to keep families in a generational cycle of poverty. This research is more than just a correlation. There is causation, also. If the parents are working several minimum wage jobs just to get by, then that is the world that their kids see. Is school portrayed as just something you have to do or is school something that is constantly being held as an opportunity to do something better? Ravitch has never said she has all the answers. What she says is that the answers touted by the corporate reformers have been shown to be overwhelmingly ineffective and that we need to address the core issues and poverty is probably the largest one of those.

makingaschoolsmile: Read Ravitch's books, she has plenty. Here is her best solution – equalize the playing field and fund schools equally. How about dealing with the issues within poverty that serve as the real barriers to education – this is her best solution that our government refuses to address. Go work in a school and you will immediately see how correct she is and this has nothing to do with the status quo.

Not everyone agrees with Ravitch's assessment:

Penny Wu: I see nothing in her article other than generalities. Ms Ravitch is against merit pay. She is against the war on teachers. She is against the attack on teachers unions. She is against poverty. And she is against the Race to The Top. Wonderful. Perhaps she will come out against broccoli as well.

Paul Scotchmer: Diane Ravitch is right on one count: "Parents must be involved in helping their kids succeed." But that only happens in privately-run schools. The answer to America's education malaise, quite clearly, is vouchers. The need is especially acute in the inner cities, where private and charter schools-freed from the public education bureaucracy-have shown that it's possible to educate students from impoverished homes and communities, bringing an end to the cycle of poverty. I'm so sorry to see a brilliant and informed scholar like Diane Ravitch succumb to the status quo. What a shame!

Lucas Mette: I'm a teacher in a low income school, and in my opinion this article is wrong on all counts. Teachers can and do make a profound difference, and they can overcome the intimidating obstacles created by poverty. Some of my 8th grade students attend school regularly but cannot read, even on a first grade level. This is a scandal. Merit pay need not be done in a way that makes teachers compete within their school. Offering a bonus for a job well done is not a "war on teachers."

manzoa: Let's see if I have this right. Diane Ravitch is a professor who has never worked in the public schools as an administrator or teacher. She does research and opines about public eduction. Michelle Rhee was the chancellor of the DC schools and has had a distinguished career in the trenches. Now which of these two should be believe? Put another way...would you want a surgeon to perform a liver transplant on you if all the surgeon had ever done was read about liver transplants? Or would you prefer a surgeon who had actual experience transplanting livers?

The debate shifted toward an essential question: Are America's schools better or worse than they have been in the past?

magbill: Ravitch spends most of the article pleading for us to ignore what every long-time teacher know, including family members of mine – that schools are markedly worse than 30 years ago. Then she disparages efforts to improve, while offering NO SOLUTIONS HERSELF – except to praise tenure (!) and 'culture'. In short, she is invested in the status quo. Ravitch is the problem, not the solution.

djheru: Yes, 30 years ago was just about when the approaches that Rhee advocates for were being first put into practice.

Tom S: Having raised 3 kids, all of whom went to the same public school I did (separated by 30+ years), I can attest to the following – my children are much smarter than I am, they worked much harder than I did (and received better grades) and the bar has been raised much higher. Pure and simple – my school is an order of magnitude better today than it was 30 years ago....Ms. Ravitch – please continue your advocacy.

jreddog1: Many adults, and many complaining adults live in this fantasy world of what they were like in school 30 years ago. Kids aren't more stupid. THEY ARE KIDS. Lazy, excuse making kids who seem to show no focus or care about the world around them JUST LIKE ALL KIDS, even the ones 30 years ago. Adults live in this magical fantasy land where they imagine this school where everyone sits upright, and raises their hands to answer questions in a timely manner and no one bullies – they imagine that it was like that when they were in school. IT WASN'T. I taught the same kids 30 years ago and you know what? A high percentage of them turned out just fine, just like the kids of today will. You were not smarter and better than these kids 30 years ago – you were the same type of kid living a typical teenaged life.

When it comes to America's schools, there are a lot of stakeholders – teachers, parents, administrators, unions, politicians, and the students themselves. Our readers find room to blame several of these groups:

Al: Teachers are not effective and there have been many studies conducted as to why. Government policy, teacher/student ratio, and parents deserve much of the blame... but teachers are still part of the problem. There are far too many teachers who simply do a poor job.

William Demuth: I am APPALLED by the lack of BASIC knowledge in today’s young people, but I do not blame them. I blame primarily the parents, and secondarily the system itself. We indulge ourselves, and thus our children. We flee from real intellectual stimulus, and instead permit pop culture and modern media to distract us. We sacrifice analytic thought and rationalism for the pale comparators of mysticism and athleticism, and then we look for scapegoats to blame. We have created a very limited intelligentsia that carries the majority of the burden of real thought for the rest of our culture and this tendency is being exacerbated by the stresses of the economy.

jorge washinsen: Check the attendance numbers at PTA meetings and compare them against the number of students and you will begin to understand the real problem.

New Gawker: Most of the blame is with the teachers union. Making it impossible to fire bad teachers, corruption, wasting money on "administrative" costs that should go to books and school upkeep. Switch to chartered schools like New Orleans and you'll see a major upswing in education.

Sharon: Bad management that is asleep at the wheel leads to lazy teachers not being pushed and written up. The union contract requires that teachers who rate poorly on in classroom evaluations receive support in addressing the issues in question. The problem is many bad school managers don't visit classrooms regularly and do not document the issues. Bad teachers do not have lesson plans, don't check homework regularly and follow up with parents. This is real easy to see if the managers are doing their jobs.

Or maybe no one is to blame?

jdoe: It's interesting that people who blame the U.S. public school system point to test scores in Asia or Europe. Yet they neglect to mention that in Asia or Europe there are very strong public school systems. Public education in itself is not the problem.

Finally A Voice of Reason: Stop blaming teachers, stop blaming parents, stop blaming kids – stop blaming period – and start improving the daily circumstances of kids living in poverty.

And finally, a teacher's response:

Gina: I know for a fact, that I have reached students who have no one in this life. The teacher is also a major influence...if he or she is a good one. We can't just throw up our hands and say, "OK, these kids have no parental involvement. Life sucks. Oh well." Many, many of them can be reached by a good teacher who is allowed to teach. Just let me teach.

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Filed under: Diane Ravitch • Michelle Rhee • Overheard on CNN • Voices
soundoff (365 Responses)
  1. David

    Enforcing discipline in the classroom would improve performance tremendously. But political correctness calls for no one to be responsible for their actions. I've been teaching for 25 years and I can say that if private schools ever have equality (funding, etc) we will see the end of public schools. Here in Georgia the emphasis is having better teachers. The target has clearly been placed on the wrong group and eventually that will be realized by all the "experts" who have been consuming faulty research.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:16 am |
  2. matt

    At least the GOP in the south has come out and admitted they want schools to turn out as many unthinking people as possible...the Texas GOP made it a plank of their platform.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Chuck Norris

      I approve of the Texas GOP.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:55 am |
      • D5

        You really approve of removing critical thinking skills from Texas schools?

        August 22, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  3. Hema David

    The education in this country is extremely subpar when comparing to other countries. We are a superpower because of immigrants and diversity in this country which keeps this country running. Although the population of immigrants here are less educated, this country is built on hard work, and that with that hard work anyone can have an opportunity here! And that's one of the best things about this country. But when you talk education, the system fails. And it's not just the teachers, it's the board and all that is backed up behind the education system here in this country. First off, schools should have dress code policies (ie.-uniforms, that goes for public as well), school should start early in the morning not late and there should be time set out in the morning for exercise and worship (accomodating all faiths), these long vacations MUST be stopped, none of this 3 month vacation. If you look at other countries they don't even have so many vacations as our country does, even though they celebrate their holidays. This is how are kids are ending up with teen pregnancies. Schools should also be teaching on the weekends for 1/2 days; excluding Sundays/Saturdays, depending on the individual faiths (option to come 1 day or the other.) And the curriculum, has to be changed! For more info on that, please have someone go to countries like India or China or Norway or Finland to see what they are teaching their children! Because what is being taught here is not enough! As children are younger their brains are like sponges, and they can absorb so much. America needs to stop being "afraid" of teaching "too much" to our children! It's good for their brains to in use!

    August 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • OklahomaMan897

      Yes, let's make the kids work even longer and harder to learn things that they will probably never use again, like Shakespeare, Greek mythology, ancient European history, complex chemical formulas or cellular biology (only a small percent ever become doctors or scientists). Yes, because kids totally need to be forced to read even more fiction that some academic dictated instead of letting them choose what books and subject matter they want to read. Because at the end of the day, we may spend a lot of money forcing kids to learn things that they are 90% likely to forget after the exam and never use again in life, but we'll all go to bed happy about it because we have a false feeling of accomplishment. Believe me, most of what I've learned in school was never used again, and most useful things I know in life came from outside school. And I was a nerdy straight-A student.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:25 am |
      • Irving

        Ah, yes, ignorance is bliss.

        August 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm |
  4. zandhcats

    I've a few friends who are teachers, one work in a low income area.She told me two of her colleagues decided not to have children after teaching there for years. She's also felt frustrated at the beginning of her career. But later she changed her strategy: befriended with her students, talked like them, e.g. if they wanted to speak foul languages,instead of speaking it out, spoke a, or b, c whatever they wanted to create, and let the emotions out. She said sometimes the whole class bursted into laughter instead. She also found time to understand the students' backgrounds and pay a visit to their homes if needed. Most trouble students were came from broken families, as parents, regardless the financial and marriage problems, please consider the children as the priority.
    I've another friend who is in union. She said every joined it so did she. She is a very hard working, and responsible teacher, laziness is not in her dictionary. Everyday after school, she spends hours in preparing classes for the next day at home. To blame the teachers for the failure of the children is just not fair.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • OMG

      Yes, they are to blame, I was in high school 20 years ago. I don't do any thing at all and still graduated. Teacher would give me a good grade just to show up

      August 16, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  5. gsnlouis

    Look, the entire reason why we are blahblahblahing about the failing education is because the other countries are doing better than us. So, let's not go blaming ourselves and start looking at them. Ever wonder why the Asians especially the Orientals and the Indians are doing so well? Do they have the funding that we have for public education? Do they have some secret state-of-the-art teaching method that we have not heard of? Then, what makes them "better" than our kids? It is the Culture of Desperation. When the society is poor in material and quality of life, everybody is desperate for an escape. There is no better escape than getting educated and then qualify to be in the profession better than your parents. With that, I will theorize that if properly funded, the African will have a higher score in unified examination than your average US high school kids. Additionally, not only they are desperate, they are mostly social conservatives where lives are not rich enough in terms of human rights to be liberal in thoughts. So, instead of wasting time learning what amount to a counter-argument to a theory, they picked the best theory and make everybody remember that. What is wrong with that? Well, plenty. First, there exist an authority to decide for the next generation what they should know and what they should not. Then, there is the inflexible thought process. But this is how most of the world maintains themselves; 10% innovation, 90% maintenance.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:05 am |
  6. Debo

    I remain endlessly amused at all those who believe first, last and always that the greatest problem with American public education are teachers unions. If that were in fact the real problem, schools in the south would be the highest achieving in the nation. Since that has never been the case voters should look for other reasons for school failures in the past 20 years. This week a district I taught in a decade ago failed the national standards and is now on the "watch list" to lose federal funding if things don't improve. Fifteen years ago this same district was sending students to MIT and Harvard. What went wrong? Over the past 15 years three events have occurred that created this epic fail.
    Poverty has increased in the district and there are a rising number of immigrant students. Costs shifted to programs for those students and away from higher level classes. Poverty costs more.
    School funding has been repeatedly cut at the state level, capped at the local level, and hundreds of large corporations demand and get tax waivers that increase their profits but undermine the local community by allowing the corporations to fund only those programs that support their needs. Education is distorted based on funding.
    To reduce expenses the district cut programs and moved to district wide lessons plans, which reduce teachers to "content delivery specialists" based on "products developed to meet your needs." This led to a loss of experts who could really teach a class made up of students that range from 13 to 17, learning disabled to top ten, motivated to sleep deprived and more. There has been a loss of teaching talent that cannot be replaced.
    What does this history of 1 district in one state tell me? School district management and state mismanagement is often the greatest problem, not the teachers.
    This district, like most in the state is not unionized. Teachers are hired each year for the first five years then they get two year contracts. If there was a poor teacher in the classroom the fault was in the central office, a place so walled off from responsibility that teachers and voters have to get written permission to address the school board on any issue. Are the voters, taxpayers or board members well served by a system that is clearly failing? Of course not, yet this same district just picked an insider to run it. And the state does nothing to address the problem because they have fired most of their inspectors to save money.
    No business would ever survive following such a foolish path yet as long as the sports teams are winning the decay in the number of students winning science awards, getting academic awards or even passing remains invisible. In short, when management is happy with average it tends to support average and stop trying for better or best. As long as a few schools are doing well and "costs" are contained the district and the state doesn't give a damn because the voters would rather cheer in the evening than "get real" during the day.
    In a nutshell the problems with American education are varied but repairing them will require voters being "willing to throw the bums out" based on what is wrong at the local and state level, not just mindlessly repeat slogans or follow the party line.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • OMG

      Oh blah Blah Blah

      August 16, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  7. PCRunningAmok

    Education is dead in the United States. It's not because of teachers. They are only pawn of the administration. School administration has become less and less concerned with education and more and more concerned with making sure nobody ever experiences failure. They've created an unrealistic, utopian environment that does not prepare our children for real life. They cannot handle challenges, because they are not given any, because challenge implies a risk of failure, and we can't risk harming their fragile self esteem.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  8. ArchieDeBunker

    Problems always arise when you compare apples to oranges. Before American schools are compared with others, we need to know how students are selected for the schools we are being compared to. American teachers are required to take every student, regardless of their ability or desire to be in school. In other countries, students are selected for their ability level and the lower ability students are directed into classes that focus less on academics and more on practical skills. Thus, if you compare American schools to schools in many other countries, America starts out at a disadvantage because we are not allowed to exclude students from secondary schools just because they are low achievers.

    Of chourse Rhee grinds and grinds on the old stand-by excuse for poor education – poverty in America. The fact is that poverty in America results from poor education. And not really even that. It actually results from the failure of American children to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that the American education system offers. In short, by the terrible mistake of having the Government give away money, food, etc. to those who won't educate themselves, we now have uneducated masses of people who see no reason to get an education, since good old Uncle Sam will see to it that they don't starve, and those people often choose to have cell phones, tv's, and cars, rather than decent food.

    One of the simplest ways to increase the education and performance levels of kids in our schools is to make the rule that if the kids aren't attending school and demonstrating that they are learning, the Swellfare check gets cut.

    Thirdly, getting rid of The National Education Association would also be a step forward. The NEA is the largest union in America (soon to be out-done by the hordes of workers in other Government workers' unions) – and the most worthless. It is through the ideas and policies of the NEA that we get such travesties as "New Math" and the emphasis on "Social Awareness" which interferes with the teaching of basic skills and confuses the children as to what they're really supposed to be learning. And it is from the NEA types that we get the monumental stupidity of "children shouldn't compete because it makes the losers feel bad." Getting rid of the NEA would be a big first step in improving education in the U.S.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • familyfunctionality

      You are right on! I agree with every point you made. And not only are teachers in the US required to take and teach everyone, they must accomodate every single need of every single student who has an emotional, social, or behavior problem. The behavior problem (BIP) kids are the worst because they inevitably draw all of the focus in the class OFF the lesson and onto their own behavior. But you can't remove them because they have a right to be educated in the "least restrictive environment" and the rights of everyone else in the room to receive a free public education are seen as secondary.

      But I digress – you are 100% on target in your assessment of the situation. Thank you for being the voice of reason.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  9. Seyedibar

    The number one threat to education is school insurance companies. They've removed teachers' right to punish students or take too active an interest, spread terrible zero tolerance policies, removed individuality with uniforms, and create an antmosphere of intimidation and policing structure that faculty cannot control through their tied hands.

    August 16, 2012 at 11:02 am |
  10. Patrick

    Rhee is a self-interested, self-promoting union-busting disaster. She shouldn't be allowed near children, let alone to make decisions regarding their education.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:58 am |
  11. Stan

    I am a teacher, but not a schlor. My path to teaching went through industry for 17 years then on to teaching for the past 10. What I have learned, not only through my career path, but from being a parent is that education starts at home. I don't care how much money you spend on education, but if the parents aren't 100% involved, all the best teachers and the money spent won't mean a thing. Get ALL the parents involved and education will make headway. Education starts at home and school is an extention of what is learned, not a replacement. .

    August 16, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • mdwesterngrl

      very very true. problem is that families in poverty dont always have someone at home. They are working a couple different jobs. They are usually highly fractured families too with other "life issues" to content with. Parental involvement is very important but not everyone has access too it. So the question is....how do we stop the cycle?

      August 16, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • OMG

      Use the money creat the class to teach kids how to learn, manner, responsibility, respect, and how education important. Simple, I learned all these in school not at home in my home country

      August 16, 2012 at 11:41 am |
      • Anndee

        Something you are obviously not grasping, among other things I'm not going to be rude enough to point out, is that this isn't your home country. In the U.S.A, at least historically, we believe that you need to take responsibility for yourself and your kids and teach things like manners and respect at home. Many other countries believe the same thing.

        It seems to me that you want to do what many teachers claim many parents want to do...foist the raising of your child off on the teacher.

        August 17, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Blake

      I completely agree! There are 3 critical pieces in education: 1) Teachers, 2) Students, and 3) Parents. They all have to be active and do their part. There is too much emphasis on teachers and not enough is said about the failure of parents and students not doing their part. Spending more money on education is a waste of money if the parents fail to do their part (make kids do homework, nutritious meals, and adequate sleep) and students don't do their best. I taught HS for several year and saw too many students under-performing and teachers had little control over the student's poor performance.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  12. MEB

    So...let's give you a test. It won't count toward any of your grades. It will just tell us where we rank internationally. No buy in? My, my. What a surprise. Our kids don't feel they need to "perform" on a test that has no consequences for them personally either. Another question–who is tested? If we're testing all our students against academic schools where the vocational kids have long since been filtered out for licensing programs, we're comparing apples and oranges.

    Listen to the teacher–the one who has spent all her time in the trenches. Ignore the other people.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  13. ChilliBox

    Reblogged this on ChilliBox and commented:
    Very candid discussion on education

    August 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • jomartin

      Thank you, ChilliBox.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:59 am |
  14. Drew

    Of course the US is failing...when you compare 100% of the population to the top 5% of the populations of the other countries! There is no PUBLIC school in many other countries...they track you by the 6th-8th grade into vocational programs, collegiate courses or the elite programs. We're comparing our "D" students who could care less about anything to their pressure-cooked study robots.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • CalDude

      Lets start with you Drew... 🙂
      It's "couldn't care less..." not "could care less"

      The latter imply that they actually cared at least a little bit about their education.......

      August 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
      • Drew

        Great job, CalDude. Should have proofread like my US public school teacher taught me to do. Keep trolling me and let me know if I have any more grammatical or spelling errors okay?

        August 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  15. CalDude

    Public education has been in control of the liberals for decades.
    This is what we get... we deserve this. We're the ones that gave them power.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  16. V

    US Education is failing for sure...first sign that made it clear to me? When I saw tweets from college students telling Olympic commentators that the Olympics could not have been started over 3000 years ago because it's only 2012...

    August 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  17. Troll

    Saw the article and laughed. America has been behind in education, and it has been public since the Nixon debate, when Russian kids were learning physics and chemistry, and America was going to recess and becoming mesmerized by color TV's.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • MarkinFL

      There is a danger of comparing apples to oranges however. I can guarantee that only a portion of the russiona kids were being compared. Many countries do not give equal access to education all the way through high school and the test scores are from a more select group of kids. Compare our high end students against another country and you may well find a closer match.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  18. Aditya

    I would not blame education system/teachers in US. It is more than education system – it is future opportunities, family and culture issues that is making kids not to study in US.

    1. Families are breaking down. In some cases both the parents are going out of way to please kids – that way kids are spoiled or other end of spectrum families are totally broken and don't have time for their kids. In the middle, are the nuclear families with both the parents working – with the work stress so much that they are not able to devote time to the kids.

    2. Kids are looking at the parents who are well educated engineers/scientists but out of jobs and challenges they are running out which people with not so well educated more successful with arts and science degrees. There should be a great motivation for kids to study hard with out culture of music, sports and so on there is very little motivation to do well in studies. We training out kids through movies, videos and culture – students studying hard are NERDS and not cool – That is a big demotivating factor.

    3. Our culture and our laws of not allowing to punish the kids – The kids don't have any fear of parents or teachers. Kids don't understand the importance of hard work and education at their age.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • OMG

      Simple, Create the class just teaching for that

      August 16, 2012 at 11:44 am |
      • Anndee

        Are you going to come up with the standardized test that will assess whether or not the teacher teaching the class has any merit? That's the only way thing happen in education now.

        August 17, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  19. Aditya

    I am an immigrant and I have my children studying here. I have studied in India and at the top of the class.

    I would not blame education system/teachers in US. It is more than education system – it is future opportunities, family and culture issues that is making kids not to study in US.

    1. Families are breaking down. In some cases both the parents are going out of way to please kids – that way kids are spoiled or other end of spectrum families are totally broken and don't have time for their kids. In the middle, are the nuclear families with both the parents working – with the work stress so much that they are not able to devote time to the kids.

    2. Kids are looking at the parents who are well educated engineers/scientists but out of jobs and challenges they are running out which people with not so well educated more successful with arts and science degrees. There should be a great motivation for kids to study hard with out culture of music, sports and so on there is very little motivation to do well in studies. We training out kids through movies, videos and culture – students studying hard are NERDS and not cool – That is a big demotivating factor.

    3. Our culture and our laws of not allowing to punish the kids – The kids don't have any fear of parents or teachers. Kids don't understand the importance of hard work and education at their age.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  20. Bob

    I hate those "If you can read this thank a teacher" signs. My mom taught me to read.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • MarkinFL

      So? She was your teacher. Thank her.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • Education doesnt always mean school

      My mother taught me to read before I went to kindergarten. My father never finished school because he had to get a job to support his mother and siblings but that didnt stop him from getting an education. He chose to learn on his own. He would go to libraries and sometimes he would buy books from goodwill or garage sales. He is the most incredible and brilliant man I have ever met. The knowledge is out there it is up to you (the child and parent) to go acquire it. FYI: Now there is also access to online libraries all over the country too... 🙂

      August 16, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  21. Shea

    This article, some of the responses, and my years teaching in a high poverty give me a clear picture of what the problem is. The adults in the room. How about we all stop arguing about what the right solution is and who is doing what is wrong. While we spend time doing this, we are still failing kids each and every day by not being able to give them the best education we can. As a country, we need to stop ignoring this high-poverty school districts and just do something about it. Doing this will make our country better, but I guess we have forgotten about helping our neighbors out. It is time people get of their pedestals and actually do something because it is better than the noting we are doing right now.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • the truth

      Of course we're ignoring poverty schools. Obama been giving money to bankers

      you poor people can go screw yourself

      August 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
      • wicked

        its not just obama. i come from a state where the gov. spent 250 million on renovations for the capital building then cut the education budget by 50 million and then blamed schools for the lack of standards in the state. hmmm that seems logical!

        August 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
      • mdwesterngrl

        correction: its not just Obama darling...look around...

        August 16, 2012 at 11:28 am |
      • Shea

        Don't blame it on one person or on politician. You missed the point of what I meant. The more time we spend arguing about it (and particularly who is to blame because that solves absolutely nothing!) means the less time we spend fixing the system.

        August 16, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Anndee


      August 17, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  22. Fladabosco

    Anyone who doesn't think rich kids get better schools than poor kids doesn't know what i know.

    I have a job where I visit dozens of schools a year, mostly in rich neighborhoods. At one high school they have a beautiful new theater – paid for by ONE of the parents. I get paid to go to high schools and coach their French horn players. No school in an impoverished area does that. But two schools (in Palo Alto and Cupertino) bring me in almost every week. Just to coach the French horns. They also pay coaches for trumpets, trombones, bassoons, etc.

    I know a woman who used to teach at a middle school in a different part of town. She told me she had to go to the school during the summer and hide the history textbooks she wanted to use because the school didn't have enough for all the classes.

    There are wonderful, successful teachers in poor areas and horrible teachers in rich areas. But to think the education or opportunities are the same is ludicrous.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • the truth

      Indeed, a kid from a community college can compete against Obama and his rich Ivy league degree

      1% wins again. thanks obama

      August 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
    • MarkinFL

      Yet people will try to deny that income affects educational opportunity.
      The affects are all the way up and down the spectrum. The very rich get to afford high end enrichment. The middle and upper class have safer environments with enough resources and few negative distractions.
      The impoverished neighborhoods pretty much are loaded with kids that get little encouragement from home, few resources and a poor learning environment.
      There are exceptions but they are notable for being just that, exceptions.
      Very bright kids can easily brought down by negative surrounding and marginal students can be lifted by positive opportunities.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  23. AGuest9

    Let's remove politics, not only from education, but from life in America! This decisive rhetoric is doing nothing but tearing apart our people, and mortally wounding our country. Send these demagogues and rich playboys packing. They DO NOT represent the America that the rest of us live in.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • the truth

      it won't work. Liberals love to praise their god, Obama

      August 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • gsnlouis

      Yea, remove politic completely. Not long after that, we would "come up" with an idea of division of labor, then refine it to a leader-based system where the leader is elected by the majority of the population. Voila, politic!!

      August 16, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  24. the truth

    Liberals love the poor and dumb. Who else is going to vote for them.

    Typical liberal math

    If I make $100 but the thing I want costs $500, I can borrow $400. If I continue to do the same thing for the next 8 years, I'll have a bunch of stuff

    no wonder liberals fail at math. they can't even balance the budget

    August 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Fladabosco

      That's the most ignorant post I have read in a long time.

      Republican math: If a high school education costs $40,000 and will help make someone a model citizen and a jail cell costs $80,000 a year let's arrest as many people as possible and just add the money to the debt and blame liberals. Then we will borrow another $450 million for a single fighter jet and use it to bomb someone who doesn't look like us.

      Then we will allow the richest people in the world to ruin the world economy for their own personal gain. Then instead of helping homeowners by guaranteeing their mortgages (which would have eliminated the credit defaults and the entire recession) we are going to give TRILLIONS to the banks that made this happen (on purpose), much of it in secret, so the bankers can pay themselves obscene bonuses instead of the jail terms they deserve. And not use any of the money to make loans to get the economy going.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • ollie

      Liberals want people poor and dumb? Poor and dumb are the hallmarks of conservatives. Liberals champion a much wider scope of thought, hold a variety of views, value education as a means to expanding thought while conservatives want it filtered and controlled. Conservatives want only the most narrow of thought, seek to suppress creative thought. It is how the powerful keep power. You have to admit, conservatives are loud – maybe the loudest – but that doesn't make their view the right view, it makes their view just one view.
      It also seems to me that conservatives hold their fellow Americans in contempt, and resort to the 'liberal' name-calling whitewash for any opinion that may even suggest that there are other opinions.
      Being an American is hard work because you have to believe that all are equal, that all have rights, that all thoughts and ideas are valued and that compromise is the ONLY way we can ever move forward. I think there are too many who simply don't want to work that hard.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • D5

      The truth is full of lies.

      Reagan triples national debt. Bush Sr doubles national debt. Clinton balanced the budget and cuts the national debt in half. Bush Jr. blows balanced budget with a war and a tax cut three times as expensive and leaves the economy in a tailspin for the next president. Reagan ended his presidency saying that deficits don't matter. Cheney also said that Reagan proved that deficits don't matter. Conservatives only care about the deficit when they are not in power. When they get in power again, they will blow the deficit again, like they always do. Unfortunately, there are too many people like you, proclaiming truth when you are really full of lies.

      August 22, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  25. Missy

    I agree with those that say teachers are doing way more than they should in certain areas. As a teacher, I spend HALF of my time teaching social skills to my elementary students. I literally have to give them specific tasks to complete or display for the week because if I don't, I can't get any teaching done. Parents have come to me and said, I can't get my kid to listen?? Really? So I come up with homework like do something extra special for your parents, wash the dishes today, or take out the trash..I always ask the parents if they give their children chores and 98% of the time they say they don't. And of course there's your most common skills like saying please, excuse me, learning patience, knowing when to remain quiet and listen, NOT arguing back with adults(unless it's an unsafe situation)...I mean the list goes on and on. My hope is that I can catch them at a young age, but if parents don't require this behavior at home or students encounter a lax teacher, then everything they've learned is ruined. While I was observing classrooms for the US DOE, 80% of classrooms had behavior issues for almost all of my observing period. I don't know how to wake people up to realize that these issues are the core of the problem and everything else is just a layering of added turmoil..... Point of this was that I shouldn't be spending most of my time teaching students how to behave.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  26. Aditya

    I am an immigrant and I have my children studying here. I have studied in India and at the top of the class.

    I would not blame education system/teachers in US. It is more than education system – it is future opportunities, family and culture issues that is making kids not to study in US.

    1. Families are breaking down. In some cases both the parents are going out of way to please kids – that way kids are spoiled or other end of spectrum families are totally broken and don't have time for their kids. In the middle, are the nuclear families with both the parents working – with the work stress so much that they are not able to devote time to the kids.

    2. Kids are looking at the parents who are well educated engineers/scientists but out of jobs and challenges they are running out which people with not so well educated more successful with arts and science degrees.

    3. Out culture and our laws of not allowing to punish the kids – The kids don't have any fear of parents or teachers. Kids don't understand the importance of hard work and education at their age.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  27. FuzzybDuck

    As a Brit whose children are educated in Texas, there are two fundamental differences between here and Europe. The Europeans do not lump their breaks into one 13 1/2 week summer, the breaks are more staggered, so one week in October, two or three for Christmas, a few days off in February, two or three weeks for Easter, a few days off in May and they finish mid July for a six to eight week summer. It is so simple, the kids get breaks on a regular basis, not all lumped into one where they forget everything. The second point is the starting and finishing times. Junior High and High schools start at 7.20! My kids go to bed early but they still cannot function at this time. There has been research that teens' bodies do not wind down until late at night, yet they still need a vast amount of sleep. It really takes my kids hours to be at full capacity. In Europe they generally start at 9am, a little more compatible with teen body clocks, atnd finish at 4pm, whereas mine finish at 2.30 . Such an easy fix with a big impact, I don't understand why it is not staring the administrators in the face.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • familyfunctionality

      Every point you made is 100% on target, and there are some school districts in the US that make use of the data to change the start time of school for middle and high school students. However, it seems to me that a LOT of parents would complain if their children had to be at school at 4pm and then have athletic practices and such afterward because their precious darlings would not be getting home until 6 or 6:30pm. And then the teachers would complain because they would have to teach until 4pm, and then tutor until at least 5pm (at the school where I worked, teachers were required to tutor for two hours after school a couple of days a week – as a duty assigned by the campus principal). I know first hand what you propose would work because my own daughter attended a junior high that operated on a 9-4 schedule, but I think the PR on such a change would be met with nothing but complaining and resistance on a lot of fronts. In the end, most of the stakeholders are more interested in what's better for themselves than what is in the best interest of the students.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:27 am |
      • FuzzybDuck

        But in Texas it is so hot that they have practice before school starts!

        August 16, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  28. Aditya

    I am an immigrant and I have my children studying here. I have studied in India and at the top of the class.

    I would not blame education system/teachers in US. It is more than education system – it is future opportunities, family and culture issues that is making kids not to study in US.

    1. Families are breaking down. In some cases both the parents are going out of way to please kids – that way kids are spoiled or other end of spectrum families are totally broken and don't have time for their kids. In the middle, are the nuclear families with both the parents working – with the work stress so much that they are not able to devote time to the kids.

    2. Kids are looking at the parents who are well educated engineers/scientists but out of jobs and challenges they are running out which people with not so well educated more successful with arts and science degrees.

    3. Out culture and our laws of not allowing to punish the kids – The kids don't have any fear of parents or teachers. Kids don't understand the importance of hard work and education at their age.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  29. MediaSELLS

    In my 12 years of public education – I had a total of THREE teachers that effected me in a positive way. The rest seemed really inconvenienced to do their job. But I also got most of them after they had a day of dealing with punk-ass kids whose parents NEVER got involved or sided with the teachers. We no longer teach manners or discipline (or even penmanship!) because if a teacher does anything, they risk being sued by parents looking to make a quick buck. Schools never have budgets worth a damn for materials of any kind. And then there's the issue that we're a TV culture who looks everything up on the internet. I seriously doubt there's a kid out there today who even understands the Dewey Decimal system anymore. We're a nation full of idiots raising idiots. We don't teach REAL nutrition. We don't teach the ARTS. We only care about football and viral videos in hopes of 'success' which in this country is not defined by your brains, but weather or not you're rich, famous, or have a reality show. So all this is our own damn fault.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  30. caliborn

    I've never been a teacher–except to my own four children–but I am a librarian who works in a huge (1000 students), multicultural elementary school where 75 percent (at least) of the students receive free lunch. The school is filled with great kids. Half of them come from homes where the parents are uninvolved and uninterested. Those are the students who fail. The other half come from homes where a variety of languages are spoken and income levels are present. The culture in those homes, though, is that children are special and deserve support at home. The parents in those homes who aren't educated enough to help their children at least get them to school, on time, every day. In the failing homes, children don't receive that support. They don't get help or encouragement with homework. Worse yet, they show up to school intermittently. What will solve that problem? Either taking the failing parents out of the picture (which is somehow unacceptable to our society) or helping the child succeed despite that. That latter option costs money. It requires after-school tutoring and mentoring–anything to blunt the effect of apathetic parents.

    This is NOT a "blame the parents only" rant. In my experience, though, elementary school teachers in general are wonderful, committed, well-trained professionals who care deeply about their students. And, to be quite honest, although they deal with students with disabilities, they can generally handle any misbehavior that occurs in the classroom. Again, my experience has been less positive in middle school. And in high school, it's night and day. Either the teachers are incredible or they are horrible. It's in high school, especially, where my husband and I have had to step in and teach our children outside of the classroom (we've always supported before, but never had to actually TEACH the concepts).

    August 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Missy

      @caliborn.. Being an elementary teacher, I often don't focus on high school, but I completely agree with your comment. Just from my experience attending high school, I was often left studying the encyclopedia for hours or calling my parent's friends for help on homework. I basically taught myself half of what I learned in high school. Not saying all of the teachers are like that, but most of mine certainly were.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  31. Surthurfurd

    There is a great need to get rid of the bad teachers. The problem: where are we going to get the replacements? Merit pay mostly rewards the teacher who comes after the great teacher, has students from a good home, or who support cheating. Who among the good teachers is going to be willing to risk not only extra work, tougher conditions, and more blame but also lower pay to work in the schools that need the better teachers? Capitalism does not end for those in the public sector.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • eroteme

      Increasing teachers' salaries is always a good move, even if this may not been of benefit in the past. If their vacations were increased from three months to four months this might result in their improved peformance. If there must be tests maybe these tests could be made easier so more students would receive A's. This would show improvemet for both teachers and stujdents.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  32. The Other Chris

    Is it really surprising that our education system in this country is not ranked among the top? Look for example at the sentiments expressed by politicians this year that ran for the top job of the country. Santorum, during one of his campaign stops called our president a "snob" for suggesting that people strive for higher education or vocational training to be more productive and successful in their careers. States like my home state of Pennsylvania are cutting funding from public schools/state funded universities each year to solve our debt problems, but they have no problem giving tax benefits to natural gas drilling and oil companies that operate in the state. Every election campaign seems to be reflecting a "race to the bottom" in the ignorant comments and actions of our leaders, and still these people are elected to design policy that directly influences how education is run in this country. Maybe we as a country need to step up and do our part in electing policy makers with a strong educational background who will advocate for an improved system and make the necessary changes (and I'm not talking about political science, law and business people - think the German chancellor with a doctoral degree in physical chemistry).

    August 16, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  33. The Jackdaw

    The comments that people make on the science related articles should be plenty of proof that our education system is failing.

    August 16, 2012 at 10:09 am |
  34. the truth

    Oh geez, democrats in power and education is failing?

    Nice job libbys, what else are you going to destroy?

    August 16, 2012 at 10:07 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Libs: "I have an idea. Let's try it!"

      Neo-Cons: "NO! Hey, lets just say no to everything the Libs suggest! That will make them look stupid! America, F-YEAH!"

      Libs: "Fine. Work with us to come up with a better idea. What do you suggest?"

      Neo-Cons: "America, F-YEAH! Eat more fried foods! Bomb some people that talk funny and praise Jesus! Don's make us think! Thinking is for liberal satan lovers!"

      Libs: "Education is failing."

      Neo-Cons: "Libs killed America!"

      August 16, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • MD

      Very typical.....blame someone else. Learning starts at home, get to work Parents!!!!

      August 16, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • MarkinFL

      The Bush administration's attempt to turn education into a race for the middle with unfunded mandates that insist all students should be identical test taking robots was the biggest disservices to education since the loss of student/parental responsibility.

      August 16, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  35. Don


    That's right, during her extensive two year career as an ineffective (her own description not mine) Michelle Rhee

    I know she is popular with some people and some people think she has big ideas. Let's be clear. If she were a superintendent and one of her teachers put tape on student's mouths ripping open skin she would fire such a teacher and rightly so.

    And, google it your self, states with strong teacher unions have high achievement and "right to work" states have low test scores. So yes, Michelle, lets get rid of the nasty unions so we can fire teachers who require students to read books like To Kill a Mockingbird (again look it up, its true) and get rid of people who tape their students mouths shut.

    Is she going on TV again? Where's my duct tape?

    August 16, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • wwrrd

      Yes, but I bet the kid shut up allowing her to teach the other kids in the class that were behaving.

      August 17, 2012 at 8:30 am |
  36. J Mason Emerson

    American teachers teach many many youngsters who don't speak English. That's why the scores are so low. To increase the scores, pay for more ESL teachers. Considering a massive number of students who can't speak or understand our nation's main language, it's incredible that our ranking is as high as it is, and the America's teachers deserve gold medals, not the mud slung by Rhee, Romney and Ryan and other open and hidden politicos.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Mer Carr

      Whose fault do you think it is that these students don't know English? Do you think that magically happens? Or do you think that is something that is undermined AT HOME by parents who are unwilling to learn the language? We have always had students in our country who don't speak the language. A friend of mine, now almost 70, immigrated with his parents and older brother after WWII. He spoke Hungarian and German and not a word of English. No one in his family did. He has one of the strongest and firmest grasps on the English language of anyone I know – far better than many native speakers – because his parents forced him, his brother, and themselves to LEARN ENGLISH. They insisted on dinner conversations being held in English, even though it was more difficult, they had him read books in English (which they were also learning how to read) and then write reports, in English, on what he had read, and they refused to speak Hungarian or German exclusively at home until the entire household had mastered English. Sure, they reverted to it for important information that needed to be gotten across quickly, but for every day things – "Time to get up," "Eat your breakfast," "Wash your hands," – they ALL struggled to speak English. Since he was a child he obviously picked it up much quicker and was actually able to help them learn the language. That desire to come here and learn the predominant language no longer exists and is constantly excused by people saying, "But we're a nation of immigrants." Yes, we are, and always have been, and until recently we have ALWAYS expected that those immigrants LEARN ENGLISH. I would not move with my family to France and expect there to be FSL teachers to help my children in school, or to have things printed in French and English just so we could understand what it said. I would make sure we all spoke French before we moved, or make sure my family was fully immersing themselves in the language after we got there.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  37. Jeff

    I wonder if the author of this piece was paid for what is essentially a bunch of Cut and Paste of commenter posts. That is pretty lazy, not to mention uninformative.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  38. Nicole

    I always find it interesting that we compare our test scores to countries where they kick kids out who don't score high enough or have disabilities. Simply speaking, there is no comparison. Ditto for school systems where children spend hours a day at cram schools doing rote memorization. Many time these students emerge from these systems without the problem solving and creative thinking skills necessary to succeed.

    Honestly, I would like us to shift our view of education away from test scores and more towards quality. Test scores, especially comparing them to past performance, is a good measure of a students individual needs and abilities. Great way of screening for gifted and disabled students, and a great way of signaling a need for intervention when a child may start struggling. Not so great when it comes to telling the quality of instruction- the correlation is rather weak. Instead I'd like to see independent school evaluating agencies that would go into schools and evaluate teachers as well as the overall quality of the school, and then make recommendations. Schools that do well should be granted more freedom with curriculum as well as leadership opportunities. Ones that do poorly would undergo remediation and more intensive support in improving the school. Perhaps staff from schools that succeed could be lured by promises of reimbursement to struggling schools to implement their program at the new schools.

    And, really, we need to pull ourselves away from the test scores. There is more to education than how a kid can perform on an assessment- we want to prepare kids for universities and careers, not to fill in bubbles.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Athena6515

      What about schools like Finland? They have their non-native speaking and extremely low economic students thriving right along side of the "native, average economic students". They are in the top #3 for the international test and they don't use testing to "grade their students" or decide whether they move up. The only test they take are the international one where US is awful and they are great. All teacher have masters degrees and being a teach is HIGHLY respected and well paid. The kids don't start school until 6yr- 7yrs and they have the same teacher for the entire elementary schooling. The Teacher decides on what they learn and teach them to learn. They learn by playing games and they learn how to learn, which is very important. That is what make the difference, their teacher know their home life, they know their learning struggles, they aren't starting over new every year to figure out what is best for this student. They should just over haul the system. Elementary school teachers should start out with 1 class and teach that class from K-6.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:19 am |
      • MarkinFL

        And the cost? Not saying it is not worth it, but we can barely get our citizens to pay for a simple minded approach that pays teachers as little as possible and uses as few resources as possible. The tax rate in Finland is I suspect a wee bit higher than here.

        August 16, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  39. Dawn

    I am totally shocked to see the direction education is going in this country and citizens are standing around like nothings wrong. Education is failing in America because parenting is failing. Teachers spend more time with your children, if they attend regularly, than you do. Teachers are required to teach basic manners and behaviors to children because they come to school without the knowledge of how to treat their fellow human being. We as Americans need to sit back and reflect on what is truly important in life and be active in teaching our children right and wrond and not to rely on other people to do it-otherwise we are really a selfish and lazy people. Education in America is a mess, I would not encourage any young person to persue that career. I am not a teacher.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • wicked

      i have to send my kids to self defense classes because of bullies! where are your teachers who spend all their time teaching manners? maybe they should try teaching not to hit others students. i know mine are at a disadvantage because this is what i taught them at home.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Melisa

      I completely agree. I spend half of my time teaching social skills to my elementary students. I literally have to give them specific tasks to complete or display for the week. Parents have come to me and said, I can't get my kid to listen?? Really? So I come up with homework like do something extra special for your parents, wash the dishes today, or take out the trash..I always ask the parents if they give their children chores and 98% of the time they say they don't. And of course there's your most common skills like saying please, excuse me, learning patience, knowing when to remain quiet and listen, NOT arguing back with adults(unless it's an unsafe situation). My hope is that I can catch them at a young age, but if parents don't require this behavior at home or students encounter a lax teacher, then everything they've learned is ruined. While I was observing classroom for the US DOE, 80% of classrooms had behavior issues for almost all of my observing period. I don't know how to wake people up to realize that these issues are the core of the problem and everything else is just a layering of added turmoil.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  40. One of the Young Autistic Men

    One of the problems in school is racial stereotypes. When people face racial stereotype, they perform worse on a exam. When they do not, they could perform as equally as the others. Our society have a baggage of racial stereotypes.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • One of the Young Autistic Men

      I did not mean problem in school, since school does not cause stereotype, it should society all total.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:46 am |
  41. ArthurP

    It is science scores pull down the US marks. Which is understandable since there is no science section in the Bible.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Nietodarwin

      Well put. This whole religion thing in the US is what is killing us. Maybe there's hope. The atheist movement is growing by leaps and bounds. The people in Times Square were chanting "SCIENCE SCIENCE SCIENCE" after the Mars rover landing.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  42. Richard Marks

    American education is NOT failing; it is extraordinarily successful. The "powers that be" want stupid citizens as they are easier to control. They have stupid citizens. THAT is success.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  43. Anonymous

    The reason the US ranks right in the middle in education is that the education system teaches EVERYBODY. Both the geniuses and the morons. In all of the high ranking countries, their system accepts only the geniuses, so their test scores are obviously high, and not brought down by the dummies. If every country were to include everyone in their schools and have a public education, the US would be a lot closer to the top. We do a good job of teaching the entire youth, not just the smart kids that have potential and let the less smart kids work on a farm all their life.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • formerSeattleite

      what a load of nonsense – schools in third world countries might teach a subset of the entire population of children, but schooling in Europe and other Western countries is mandatory for all.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:43 am |
      • MarkinFL

        MANY western European countries separate kids into vocational vs. University tracks. Who do you think is taking the physics/math tests?

        August 16, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Zac

      Obviously you are in the moron group. Please learn more about other country educational systems before you comment. These tests include a range of grade school levels. The point on poverty is more about how the family can/does value school time. Obviously the more impoverished the family the less time they can be involved with the child's education.

      I've looked at these testing scores, and there are tons of them, and I would argue the difference between the top scores and the US is insignificant. People get so focused on scores. I'm not saying we shouldn't learn from and strive to improve, but give me a break we are far from falling off the cliff. I would also agree that we have a long long way to go to giving teachers the rewards they deserve in both compensation and support in the class room.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • NY teacher

      Thank you for putting that out there! That is just one of the significant differences between American and European and Asian school systems. I don't think too many American parents would be happy with the changes we would need to make in our schools in order to be like other countries.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:05 am |
      • MarkinFL

        Well, we could have our kids committing suicide over education pressure instead of bullying. Would that be an improvement?

        August 16, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • In the know

      I've studied schooling systems in other DEVELOPED countries. They, too, educate everyone. Those at the top of the international comparisons realized those comparisons are invalid. The U.S. has been ranked low in these bogus assessments since their conception in the 60's. There is no correlation, let alone causation, between high international rankings and a strong economy...

      August 16, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  44. mthguy

    These comparisons with Europe and Singapore really puzzle me. In most other countries in the world, kids are tracked starting in the 5th or 6th grade. At that point, it is decided whether you are college material, or whether you should learn a trade. When they give these international exams (TIMMS, for example), the students in the other countries who take them are all on the college track, while they are given to everyone in the US. I don't see how you can draw any conclusions from such data. Try giving these international exams only to the honors and AP students in the US, and then see how the US rates.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • jrobinson328

      Your statement is absolutely right on the mark! An apples to apples comparison would show the United States is a leader. I have grown tired of the deceptive rankings that are broadcast by the media.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • In the know

      Wrong. Check the Scandinavian systems. They educate everyone to a much better degree than we do. Why? They don't track as we do...We have de facto tracking which is found in our lack of equity among schools and school districts. Poor kids need many more resources in the schools than middle class kids, yet the middle class schools have much more money. It's backwards. What those nations at the top of the rankings have done is relatively eliminate poverty. There, I said it, the "P" word that no politician, especially on the right, wants to mention...

      August 16, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Athena6515

      You can be in "College Prep" track in US school without being in Honors or AP classes. You might want to express excluding vocational students from the testing.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  45. choupine

    If anyone could teach in America then they could teach around the world. Yes you do have some bad teachers but the problem is much more than that. I am a teacher, I have taught in several countries, Discipline in a huge problem in american school. too many rubbish laws. why are they no play ground in schools? because we are scared of lawsuit. where are the parents? they are busy working. Who discipline your kids? TV, video games, hollywoodians...etc what is in the curriculum? standardize test, multiple choice. what is administration problem? results. why can kids not learn? there is not enough technology. yet the poorest schools in the US has a library, computers, toilet. Go to other places in the world and see where students learn yet they do not complain. they are motivated ,they have very little to no material, they come from very poor families , they are discipline and the have a huge envy to learn and succeed. why are you a bad teacher? because you have an accent, you try to discipline kids, you give a merit fail grade. why are you a good teacher? everybody makes an A. what is wrong with the student? half of them at special need. even when nothing is wrong with them. from one excuse to the other. why are they not motivated? cause parents know best, students know best. Am sorry to say this but that system is collapsing. What have school become? a daycare. Why can kids not be discipline? you hurt their feelings, the parents will be mad, administration has to look good. Until when are we going to start respecting a teacher role, a parent role, a student role, and the administration role. America economy is solely bright because of those who come from other places to fill your mess. look at the doctors, the engineers , the nurses and so on around you. why are these other student perfoming better? because they are chinese, indians , africans...etc and it is in their genes ? i do not thing so. They are hard working and discipline. what kind of education can parents give when they are working round the clock? this problem is more than just a school, a teacher , a student. Ask yourself what is our society about? how do you envision success in this society? where are we heading to? what are we producing? what for?

    August 16, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • DB

      100% in agreement with your assesment, again it is the PARENTS fault for the idiot laws, the lack of respect, and bad learning envornment at home.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:38 am |
      • wicked

        i wonder if DB is a parent. hmm this is what the working parents day looks like. get up at 6, hussle kids to school, go to work, kids go to day care when school ends, get off work by 6 pm, pick up kids, get home by 7 pm, cook and clean house until 8 pm, spend half hr with kids, get them ready for bed. the theachers day, hussle kids to school spend 6 whole hrs teaching kids, leave work by 4 pm. pick up kids, get home by 430pm , cook and clean done by 6:30 pm, spend 2 hrs with kids, get them ready for bed. now i wonder just where the parent is going to spend six hrs of teaching every day. maybe i can pack it in on the weekends so the child never has a break!

        August 16, 2012 at 11:18 am |
      • MarkinFL

        Interesting how you left out all the time teachers spend working at home and you needed double the time to get home then they do. (teachers must drive faster). Also, it is mainly about discipline and respect and encouraging your kid to study..
        The majority of education issues in this country are definitely home related. Yes I have two kids in school. I am not a teacher and they are getting a very good education because I care enough to ensure they do and I have enough resources to help it happen.

        August 16, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • interestedmom

      To the point!! I agree with all you wrote.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Dawn

      I agree with you on many points as per my post is similar to yours. I have a co-worker who comes from another country and he expressed his views as "dummying down of America." The government is providing less and less money whether state or federal, but expect better and better results, i.e test scores. Children who have special needs receives their funding regardless, at least in most school systems. Punishing teachers is not the smart way to go, taking away their bargaining rights is not the smart way to go. Do not balance your state buget on the backs of educators; but that is what they are doing in Michigan.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Micky

      Absolutely! We bash our teachers and constantly question our methods when in fact the heart of the matter is lack of involvement from home for whatever reason.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Athena6515

      All of the elementary schools here have playgrounds in the 3 states that I've lived. I see the kids playing on them after lunch during the school year.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:36 am |
      • MarkinFL

        Every state is different and within states many districts are better than others.
        Hard to make any sweeping statements about them.
        I will say that parents are an issue almost everywhere. Not all of them. But you can usually identify the most useless parents based on their kids educational success ( or lack thereof)

        August 16, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  46. jim

    It is obvious that the US has not kept pace with the rest of the world in the educational arena. Anyone who says otherwise is either a liar or ignorant. Throwing more money at the problem isn't the solution because we have raised the inflation-adjusted funding levels to a pretty high level and the results are poor.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
  47. Wow

    Get rid of the teacher unions and have them run just like any other job with no union. You can be fired for poor performance, promoted for great performance just like many of the milliions of jobs that have no unions and are just fine. Your NOT going to die just because you dont have a union. I and anyone I know does NOT have a union and our jobs, pay, and the way we are treated are fine. Unions have no place in America anymore, Unions add huge amount of overhead to our system, driving up costs for everyone, and allowing inefficiencies to drag down performance.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • DB

      Until parents take responsibility for their kids they will never learn. Either stop this nonsince program of "never leave a kid behind" or you have to dumb down the smart kids. Let smarts ones excell and let the dumb ones suffer until they wake up. Take the electronic gadges away from the kids until they do their homework and start learning again. Every go to a store and the cashier cannot even make change for you? Who's fault is that? Kids need guidance in the gut level values learning years, between 5 and 13 and if you willynilly then that is the way they will live all their lives. Also, rememver there are winners and losers out there, let winner excell and become winners. Let losers try harder to becom winners or they will never know the drive necessary to become a winner.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • NY teacher

      Promoted to what position?? Those who work to become teachers generally plan to stay in the classroom as teachers throughout their career. I am one of those teachers. The only step up in terms of "promotion" would be administration. However, that requires additional certifications and college coursework. Unlike the business world, you cannot just be moved up to a leadership position based on your work performance.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  48. dirty dawg

    Hey, wats dis talk bout 'mericuh's edumacation sistem faiiling all 'bout? Ah's don beleive a werd of it. I don'e graduaated hi skool last yeer, an I's doin great here, werkin at wall mart 26 hours a week!.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  49. dirty dawg

    Its not just education. The entire U.S. is failing. Somewhere in the last decade or two, this country has really lost its way.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • DB

      Thank the dumbing down of our political leaders and the pandering to the public for votes instead of doing their jobs they were elected to do.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  50. think about it

    Countries like Hungary and Lexumburg are ahead of the US because unlike the US they do not have to pour billions into a war machine. Take 1/5 of the US military budget and apply it to our education system, allow teachers to be fired for poor performance and allow performance based pay, and you have a winning combination.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • DB

      HOw about firing parents and kids for poor performance too. Anyone can make a kid, but it takes a parent to raise on.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • wicked

        thats idiotic! if you are a poor parent the state takes your children, if you are a poor kid you go to jail.

        August 16, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Becca

      Really itwont be very long we will be a 3rd world country. I also feel as far as an education, the parents of these kids let then run wild and they do not care if their kid studies or not. So a lot of the problems with educaion are the parents fault too.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:29 am |
      • a watcher

        the term 3rd world is no longer accepted internationally, the correct term is a developing country

        August 16, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  51. blake

    Increased federal control and throwing more money at the problems is not the solution. We need to return to teaching the basics. We need to rid the country of teacher unions which exist to protect incompetent and lazy teachers. And we need to clear the classroom of political agendas.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  52. KP

    I wouldn't say education is worse than it has been in the past. In fact, it's probably on average much better. However, while education improvements have steadily increased, the required education level for entry level jobs increases exponentially with developments in technology.

    The days of joining the middle class with a high school diploma are largely over; an associate's degree in a useful trade has become a necessity in most branches of manufacturing, the backbone of our historical success.

    The problem, in my opinion, isn't poverty, it's ignorance. There are too many parents in denial saying 'I didn't get a diploma, why should you?' Too many students depending on that athletic scholarship to go to college, and if they make it, depending on getting drafted to a professional team instead of studying hard to get a useful degree (clearly they never took their statistics classes too seriously!).

    There are plenty of parents in poverty that both work hard and instill an appreciation for education in their children so that they can have something better. And there are plenty of opportunities for kids from these families (albeit most at the collegiate level requiring some self motivation to get started). The vast majority of families need to impress upon their children that the question is not will they go to college, but how good of a college can they get accepted to.

    This pop culture view of educated individuals as high-brow, geeky losers must stop!!

    August 16, 2012 at 9:13 am |
  53. costas cacaroukas

    We do not prize education. We do not respect teachers ( think of all that has been said against them over the years ).We do not believe that if kids are well fed and taken care of, their minds will mature better, as well as their bodies (when, during the Reagan administration, catchup was considered a vegetable so that students were not served a vegetable at lunch, the people did not strongly objet to this ). Schools in poorer districts have a much smaller budget than schools in rich districts. Let us administer to today's students exams that students took 30 years ago
    and let's see how well they do- this will settle the question of are today's students educated better then their parents

    August 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  54. Oh, Honey...

    To all of those who have commented blaming the students: Anyone, teacher-by-trade or no, can teach a kid who WANTS to learn... that requires little to no effort & cannot possibly be used as a gauge of their capability. The audaciousness of teachers/admins blaming children for the problems in our education system; that says a lot about where the reform really needs to happen.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:12 am |
  55. jneyntdstntn

    I just retired after 26 years of teaching. I would have taught longer but teaching to a test became more important than teaching children. Many times I asked why students didn't know or couldn't do something. It was answered seriously, "It's not on the test."

    Trying to get all teachers teaching by the same script is not working. Each teacher brings her own special skills and talents and these skills and talents are being wasted.

    Veteran teachers are leaving as quickly as they qualify for retirement because they remember the days when we were trusted to teach because we knew what we were doing. Now everyone outside the classroom thinks he or she is an education expert.

    Ten years of No Child Left Behind sounded like a good idea, but it ignores our best and brightest students. How much longer will it take for politicians and "experts" to realize this?

    Most teachers know how to teach; they just aren't allowed to teach in a way that they've learned works best. Administrators think the same thing needs to be said and done in every class. Do you remember your favorite teacher because he or she did the same thing as all the other teachers? Innovation, creativity, excitement–all gone.

    Just let teachers teach. Just let teachers teach. Just let teachers teach.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Aezel

      Yup. Teachers don't decide what to teach anymore, politicians do, and parents support it because it deflects blame off of them and their terrible home life they provide.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:10 am |
      • wicked

        the terrible home life is not always the parents fault! try being injured so badly you can no longer work or do most daily activities! you cant expect parents to do the job of a teacher who was taught exactly how to teach. the best teacher i ever had was a history teacher who never used a book, yet i remember everything he showed me and can still tell you about it.

        August 16, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Steve

      Why is teaching to a test bad if the test is aligned with the skills required to get into college? Elementary and High School should prepare you for further education that is applied to some trade or skill useful to society. If you are not interested in further education after high school then I'd argue a trade high school should be where you go.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:37 am |
      • jneyntdstntn

        Teaching to a test is a problem because the test is typically for just reading and math. The tests in some places are not national tests, but are poorly written state tests designed to get the necessary passing rates to keep government off their backs. The necessary passing scores ("cut scores") are different each year because the numbers have to be juggled to get the results they want. All the other subjects have become secondary–science, history, geography, the arts. What you're seeing now is the result of what happens when those subjects have been shoved aside for the last 10 years. A national test that covers all subject areas would be better, but too many children are so nervous taking these pass-or-go-to-summer-school tests that they are not an accurate indicator of what has been learned–or not learned.

        August 16, 2012 at 11:03 am |
  56. ..

    Another observation that seems to be overlooked is that, when comparing American schools to Europe and Asia, there is a lack of accountability for students in the United States. Also, students in Europe and Asia are tracked and moved to trade schools if they are not cutting it in academia. In the US, we believe that all students should go to college as opposed to all students should have the opportunity to go to college. There are many students who would do amazing in a trade school but drop out of high school because "school is not for them" and is left to do odd jobs and struggle to get by (for the most part). There is a much bigger gap in salary earned by a high school drop out today versus a drop out in the 1940s. If we were to give the option of trade school during high school, we may see an increase in skilled workers and our schools. Though, I know that this is not the sole solution that will fix everything, just an observation.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  57. coachhouser

    I've been teaching high school 33 years. When I heard that some division(s) in the USA were cutting days off their school year, I just shook my head. Hey, USA: We can't have it both ways. Can't say the kids need more education, they're not keeping up, other countries are kicking our butts, THEN cut the school year, or expect the kids to have no homework, or be satisfied when some kids are uncontrollable in the classroom, etc.
    So which one will it be? (a) If we're content, then keep doing as much (or less) as we've been doing. (b) If we want more, then we must do more, and expect more.
    Why does ANYONE expect more and better results by expending less time & less effort. Probably not going to happen.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:05 am |
  58. JDon357

    School Systems across the US have become independent political organizations. They tax, have their own police, their own PR offices and grossly overpaid administrators. They even have their own unions in many states. The states that do the worst jobs in educating. The US Federal Government enables this power grab by having it's own eunich-like Department of Education. Like the Social Democrats, they defend their failing grades by blaming everyone and everything else: the parents, poverty, computer games and what kids wear. Good teachers have been driven from the profession for the past 20 years by administrators telling them they have quotas and can't pass or fail students based on their grades.

    August 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  59. Ralph

    Teachers need to be paid more, which will motivate smarter individuals to pursue that as a profession. A lot of the education majors at universities are not the "cream of the crop" or even close to it. They go into teaching because they cannot do anything else. And really, anyone who has talent will not settle for a 35-40K/year job if they can be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, businessmen, etc.

    Pay teachers more, but hold them accountable as well. This is how you fix the school system

    August 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • Jimi

      What about the people who really do care about kids and want to teach as a profession? I don't teach because I can't do anything else, I teach because I beleive in my students, and my country and I want to help create competent citizens. I can do anything I want in this world, and have done so before I started teaching. Ralph, your comment and outlook comes from your obsession with TV land. Come to the real world and you will find very cometent people in the classroom, who can do anything they want, but CHOSE to teach because they care.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:26 am |
  60. choupine


    August 16, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  61. Green1955

    We don't need public schools or tax payer paid lazy teachers who indoctrinate our kids with liberal ideology and junk science. My kids are home schooled, very bright and are now attending Liberty University....which in my mind is a complete success and did not cost the tax payers a dime!!

    August 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • tnies

      Define " junk science". just wondering.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  62. spink007

    There is a third alternative to Rhee's and Ravitch's explanations. That Ravitch is right that poverty and low-test scores (i.e., ignorance) are correlated, but wrong in her suggestion that poverty causes low-test scores. Rather, it is likely that low-test scores (i.e., ignorance) causes poverty and the so called "cycles" of generational poverty that Ravitch speaks of. Unfortunately, ignorance and disinterest in education are part of the "culture" of certain groups and is the main cause of their remaining in poverty.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • Rockman

      I am hoping that when you refer to the "culture" of "certain groups" as your explanation for disinterest or lack of academic investment, you're acknowledging that such a "culture" is a reaction to historical climates that have limited "certain groups" mobility, and over time, promoted a family psychology that has absorbed messages of lesser ability, skill and opportunity... and is not imbedded in some other fixed demographic delineation.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:16 am |
      • spink007

        Whatever your theory of culture is, it's fine with me, unless your theory is that poverty causes this kind of culture. There are many examples of cultures that have started in poverty, but because of their intrinsic valuing of education and achievement, have become successful and have gotten "high test scores."

        August 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  63. annienymous

    I have been teaching for over twenty years. I agree that the classroom dynamic is very powerful and often overlooked when discussing student success. I also believe that policies created by administrators are also not always in the best interest of the students and are not examined as critically as teacher performance. Yes, I know that there are some bad teachers, but generally speaking, I have worked with so many who genuinely care about their students and the profession, but are frustrated about constantly changing administrative policies, not just at the local school level, but also from state and federal mandates. Are tests the only measurement of success?

    August 16, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  64. Aezel

    First of all, any person who is interested in a serious discussion would read the research, and then they would know that most of the blame falls on parents' shoulders. Yes our schools are run by politicians that don't have a dang clue, and yes there are also some(although not that many as people like to imagine) bad teachers out there.

    However, a teacher who sees a kid for a couple hours a day in no possible way can compete with the amount of influence on a child's life as to how they behave, how seriously they take learning, and how much work they put into studying as their home life, and the research supports this. You show me a kid who doesn't know anything and I will show you parents who don't know what the hell they are doing.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  65. TSB8C

    It is not the goal of public education in the US to teach kids. It is the goal to indoctrinate them to be perfect lemmings to serve the government. Kids who grow into thinking rationalizing adults are a threat to the status quo.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • TheLightbringer

      IIf you educate little Johnny, you can't control little Johnny

      August 16, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  66. Bobby Weird

    What a silly article. Please respond to this: how many of you did or are planning to send your kids to college or grad school in China or India. It's risible.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  67. M

    Kids have a very weak grasp of history. Even into their 20's it seems they are not even familiar with the basics. Anyone remember doing math in your head?? Not the newest generation. If they don't have a calculator for the simplest equations they are stumped. I wish I could fire all of my employees in their 20's......they are clueless and expect the world to give them a living for showing up and breathing........is it lunch time yet?

    August 16, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  68. Jim

    Rhee is a tool of for-profit "education" corporations pushing their crap materials. Seriously.

    There may be problems with US education, but Rhee is neither fit to describe them nor prescribe solutions.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  69. Jim

    I could read when I was three, I'll thank my parents. How many children do you think learned to read with the help of their parents? How many kids these days do you think will learn a lot of what they know through their own curiosity and the internet?

    Teachers are important sure, but more important than anything is the individual child's drive and their support system at home. Given confidence, a person can do just about anything. Take that away and they are handicapped for life. This is even more true in today's world where so much can be learned on your own via the internet. It is like having a super library in the palm of your hand.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • eroteme

      The sign in the picture. If you can read this thank a teacher. How silly. It might have said, If you can add without use of a calculator after 'graduating' from grade scool thank a teacher, or if you are able to fill out a job application without help after graduating from high school thank a teacher. Meanwhile our school children are doing quite well in social studies.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  70. bellaterra66

    I went to a slum Catholic grade school, where there were 58-64 children in every class for 8 years and no teacher's aide. And we learned. (Except for the three students who obviously had learning disabilities, but we didn't know about learning disabilities 'back then'.) Today I tutor (for free - I have no teaching degree and have never taught professionally) grade school and high school students who can't read and who don't know a subject and a noun, a verb or a predicate, even if they are hit over the head with them. Our kids today have TV, computer games and smart phones, and both parents are working. There is no discipine either at home or at at school. Students dress to expose as many body parts as possible. Teaches have no support from administrators. Teachers aren't supported by parents and are very often opposed by parents. Our whole society is a big, undiscipined, unfocused, immoral mess - witness the childish fighting of Obama and Romney and our congress - and we expect our kids to learn?

    August 16, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Baman

      A very accurate assessment, but not one that will be accepted in the politically correct community.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  71. z beast

    You know there is such a thing as the Normal Bell Curve and after WWII when the best were going off to college and the majority could find work in manufacturing and the steel mills, no one was complaining about education. At least until Sputnick. But even then the top students went off to college because they could handle the academics. Nothing has changed in intelligence. The problem is as we have moved away from manufacturing, forget steel, there were no equivalent jobs for the less "gifted." The idea that everyone can go to college is ludicrous. We are always going to have a large population unable to do the higher order thinking required. If anything, our job should be to find the best and the brightest regardless of ethnicity, social standing, or economic status and be sure they get the education they are capable of mastering. Stop deluding ourselves that America is Lake Wobegone where everyone is above average.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Curtis

      Good post.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  72. Steve D

    Ravitch and others incessantly cite the impact of poverty as a distrcation from the issue of teacher quality, as if one negates the other. The real point is that we an't do much about poverty, but we can do a lot about teacher quality. As Rhee points out and Rvitch well knows, far too many teachers don't know enough to do their jobs. That isn't their fault. Teachers want to be excellent and do a good job, but schools of education are incredibly lax, mediocre places where few of the professors know their own subject. A whole body of research shows that most professors who teach reading courses don't know even the rudimentary basics of reading science and linguistics. So, they teach that those things are unimportant even though we know with great certainty that theya re essential to effective teaching.

    And if Ravitch really cared about poverty beyond using is a shield to deflect Rhee and her facts, she would realize that poor children suffer the most from bad instruction and benefit the most from a skilled teacher.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  73. ku716

    William Demuth shared a very good observation: "We indulge ourselves, and thus our children. We flee from real intellectual stimulus, and instead permit pop culture and modern media to distract us. We sacrifice analytic thought and rationalism for the pale comparators of mysticism and athleticism, and then we look for scapegoats to blame. We have created a very limited intelligentsia that carries the majority of the burden of real thought for the rest of our culture and this tendency is being exacerbated by the stresses of the economy."

    August 16, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • ku716

      all this means practically is put a firm limit on TV, social internet, and video games, and get these kids to read all kinds of books, MAKE music (not just listen to the iPod), explore nature, create, make art, build something ....any leisure that will get their minds to be involved than simply staring at a TV show or video game.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  74. Mike Ecsedy

    If you are truly interested in the philosophical difference between Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee side, I invite you to google Yong Zhao, a Chinese-American who is Presidential Chair and Associate Dean of Global Education at the University of Oregon and read or watch any of his material. He asserts that these nations that rank above us in standardized tests are looking to change their educational system to become more like ours, because they know that their education system has been culturally set up to have everyone conform. The Michelle Rhees of the world want to make us more like China; she is unaware (or many of us suspect she may have a political motive of destroying public education for the benefit of private schools) that China wants to become more like the U.S., because China knows that with its educational system, it will never produce a Steve Jobs or a Mark Zuckerburg.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  75. wwrrd

    The problem is the parents. Primarily the poor uneducated ones. They didn't get an education, place no value on education, and their financial stresses hamper their kids well being in many ways.

    People that cannot afford kids simply shouldn't have them.

    The problem is not the schools. At least that is the case in my community. I have seen countless times the demographics of a school changes as the area becomes more urban and diverse. The school is basically the same with the same teachers yet the test scores fall with the income levels of the families.

    This is a class problem and not a money problem. Even if these uneducated people were given money , they would squander it and still not stress the value of education to their kids. A few kids that make it from poor families usually had a champion of education in their family whether it was their Mom, Dad, Uncle, Grandparent and so forth. It takes a strong and consistent personality to grab these kids attention and keep them headed on the right path. The vast majority of poor kids lack these types of family members willing to put in that hard work.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • Poppa

      I agree. I often thought that welfare should have a requirement that the parent attends school WITH the child or at least spend one class learning to teach their kids. No i don't know how that could be done, but it makes sense that if the parent never learned to learn, how can their kids?

      August 16, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Jim

      Sad but true. Also sad that this will never change.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  76. jack

    we spend trillions on wars in countries we have no business being in then cut education at home. This country is finished

    August 16, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Poppa

      Hear hear!

      August 16, 2012 at 8:08 am |
      • Daniela

        You see Poppa...you've just proven the point. Most people lack basic English/grammar skills and use words the wrong way. (Here, here! vs. hear, hear or my personal favorite they're, their, and there)

        August 16, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  77. Poppa

    I'll say it again. "No child left behind" is in acytuality "No child Forges Ahead". I am NOT Advocating we cater to the exceptional, but rather we devise a system were kids are engaged at the appropriate level. KIds generally WANT to learn. Teachers can either stand in the way or facilitate. I am almost willing to say that there is no such things as "teaching" as you cannot hammer thoughts into a child. You can open their minds and watch them absorb.

    I have had 4 kids through the public schools and i will say they turned out ok in spite of the system, not because of it. All my kids read well before kindergarten.This isn't because of teachers. It was because mom and dad sat with them on our laps and read to them every day. The sad fact is, as they advanced through school, i saw their reading levels drop (5th grade level in 1st grade) to nearly status qou by time they reached 7th grade.


    Because schools can not teach to the level kids want to learn. The kids who can learn on their own are not allowed to and are bored. The kids who need the individual help are stuck in classrooms full of kids who would rather be someplace else. It's a no win situation.

    August 16, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • mrsjdmcd

      I agree with you 100%.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Jim

      You are a fool if you think the exceptional can't find their way regardless of bad teachers. They are exceptional, that's the point. It is likely their teachers are not based on odds alone.

      While good schools, good teachers, and good parents all will give better odds for the exceptional individual to rise to above average levels in their life, they will always have a chance that others will not just because of who they are at a fundamental level.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  78. wwrrd

    Michelle Rhee was a gifted and great administrator. Unfortunately she was an Asian in an overwhelmingly black city, and upset the school board, and the teachers unions despite improvements in test scores. She fought hard for the kids and lost her job for it. Those stupid people chased away the best thing that ever happened to their school system.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:55 am |
  79. Don't Ignore the 75 Ton Elephant in the Room

    While the USA has some great teachers, the profession has become bogged down the lazy fools that have no desire to do anything except get tenure then sit on their fat butts and collect paychecks. I've seen retirement parties where teachers talk about how much they hate children and over half the people in the room cheer the comment.

    Expect more from Teachers. Priase and PAY the good ones, fire the bad ones. But then you have the Unions, and that's a different story.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Don't Ignore the 75 Ton Elephant in the Room
      This was also my experience. While I was in school, my teachers could have cared less if I even came to class let alone learned anything. The majority would have an assignment written on the black board for us to do (i.e. read chapter #, complete pages #-#) and would only speak up to tell us to stop talking All the while sitting at their desk reading their romance novel or in one teachers case sleeping. The only teacher I had that gave effort was my 4th grade teacher and my ROTC instructor.

      That said parents also need to be more involved.
      This isn’t a one sided problem.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:58 am |
      • NY teacher

        Really?!?! In 15 years of classroom teaching I have NEVER heard of or witnessed such "teaching". Whenever I am walking by classrooms, my colleagues are actively working with our students. As in any profession, there will always be people who are getting away with the minimum and not doing their job properly, but I think the media and public in general have created this belief that a An overwhelming number of teachers are bad. I can tell you, from actually working in schools and witnessing teachers first-hand, it is a very small percentage of teachers. So many of those raging against our schools and bad teachers have not been in a classroom since their own experience. In my

        August 16, 2012 at 8:22 am |
      • NightOps

        Luckily I don't *completely* share in your history of not-so-great educators, but I have had my share that should have gotten thrown out as well. I completely agree that parents need to get active in their kids' education...it definitely is a multi-faceted issue. Pumping billions into our education system simply won't cut it alone. The old adage "It takes a village to raise a child" doesn't apply to just the physical maturing, but the mental as well.

        August 16, 2012 at 10:30 am |
  80. NickWPB

    I respect and teachers! Teaching, I believe is the most noble of all professions. I became a successful engineer because of my teacheers back in school. The ONLY way to have an effective education system in the US is to IMPLEMENT the STRICT ACADEMICS EXCELLENCE. Meaning LET a Science Teacher teach Science and let the PARENTS DO THEIR PARENTING JOBS.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • ROMNEY2012

      That's all fine as long as you realize that your science is false. Teach the message of God, don't spread the false teachings of the misguided fools in lamestream science. Teach the Bible in school, then at least the kids will have a shot at knowing what really happened to this wonderful planet.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:54 am |
      • Poppa

        Really? Which truth are you willing to teach? I happen to believe the universe was created by a gasseous water buffalo that farted out planets. I have just as much proof as you do about your god. There are scores of religions in the world all with alternative creation stories. DO we spend 90% of the kids time learning he truth of all of these?

        August 16, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  81. Mr. J.

    From the article, William Demuth has the best answer to the problem. But there are two things that surprise me as not being mentioned, yet, with the number teachers posting here: first, education begins the moment the child arrives home from the hospital. That very early education is necessary to building abilities that children will use in kindergarten and take with them until college. There have been studies that show that if a child has had preschool (not day care) prior to entering kindergarten, they will perform far better over the life of their education. On the flip side, children who do not have preschool will, on average, be about 1 grade level behind by the time they read 1st grade. The gap became that wide that quickly. And what has been mentioned in several cases, this is largely an issue of low socio-economic neighborhoods, where the parents don't have high levels of education, thus not understanding the need to become engaged in the way wealthier parents do.

    Secondly, what surprises me as not being mentioned by the many teachers posting is that the measurements being used are of standardized tests. We teachers know that standardized tests are not accurate measurements of a students overall ability. Further, such tests are problematic in that a students scores can be effected by many, many not educational factors, such as being sick on test day, or breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend. This is not mentioned, either by Ms. Rhee or Ms. Ravitch, the latter being a surprise. The constantly compare test scores, which is a problem that was created by the Reagan report, "A Nation At Risk." That report advocated standardized testing nationwide and that is what we have done. Only now is education developing comprehensive standards, but nobody in control of the funding cares to publicly delve into the question of how to fund schools without test scores. Certainly this is a complicated question.

    Yet, beneath all, the conversation between Ms. Rhee and Ms. Ravitch should occur and should occur more often. This conversation should happen more at schools and in school boards. But, as I believe, those who are not in charge of setting education policy have just enough knowledge of how education works to form a position, but this information is not enough to understand the nuances of how kids are taught, and all the dynamics that need to be taken into account when thinking about funding or even lesson planning.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Athena6515

      there was an article posted last year stating that children with no preschool are behind until 3rd grade where they tend to level out and are equal with those who went to preschool.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  82. NClaw441

    I am a former teacher (in private schools) and former public school student. Almost all teachers can teach, if left to do so. Schools have been asked to do too much. Schools/Teachers cannot right all the wrongs in society. Schools/Teachers educate. If you want to deal with societal ills, get social workers.

    It seems to me we serve those who do not/cannot perform in class at the expense of those who are willing to work and learn. We try to cover up the fact that some students are simply more able than others, and refuse to group students according to demonstrated ability. It isn't working, and both slower and smarter students, not to mention their teachers, pay the price. Teachers cannot effectively teach all ability levels at the same time. Group students such that their educational needs can be met.

    Parents must encourage/discipline their children and teach them about the importance of edcucation. If education is not valued in the home, that value cannot be easily fostered at school. I am thoroughly convinced that our students could do better, if challenged and required to do so. Better to have been held back a grade or two than to receive social promotions while learning little or nothing.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Schools have been asked to do too much. Schools/Teachers cannot right all the wrongs in society. Schools/Teachers educate. If you want to deal with societal ills, get social workers.

      I agree completely… so tell the schools to stop trying to be the parent by stalking kids on social media and punishing them for acts online and those off school campus. You can’t have it both ways.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  83. ralph petrillo

    It is great to have both sides air their sides. The United States leads the world with respect to hi tech companies. It is a shame that that these hi tech companies do not make a separate effort to help educate the citizens of the United States. They do not feel that they have to for they open operations abroad which employ millions. For example Apple which has $ 125 billion in surplus cash has 200,000 workers in hi tech manufacturing in Asia, and pays them very low salaries. So education can produce skilled workers in the United States but many corporations are not hiring for they exploit labor abroad. If these hi tech companies , from Apple, IBM, Google and many more would take part in setting up education centers directly linked to US citizens starting at a young age ,different results would emerge and unemployment would fall

    Both sides in their argument are both failing to produce results that everyone would like to see. However if you added up all the different classes in high school which goes for four years and each year has eight separate classes during the day, it would total 32, Add an additional 8 classes for advanced students , and all of these classes could be recorded, and offered over the internet for free to any student with a laptop. The cost of education can be greatly reduced so that our students receive an education. with hi tech companies donating one million laptops a year , building hi tech education centers, and both of the arguments of Ravitch and Rhee would be pushed aside and the children would have greater access to education at any time. They could simply walk into a library( if they didn't own a computer) and turn on the daily content for the course that they were interested in or required to take. School time can be reduced to a four day week if children have access to education through computers. Both sides are not getting the results that are needed. They have had plenty of time. So lets one up them and get the hi tech leaders involved in a more progressive manner.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  84. flatbushfred

    Besides the issue of teacher effectiveness, there is another issue directly affecting the quality of our schools: the assault on American education from the far right. How many more school districts will mandate the teaching of creationism instead of Darwin before our school system goes back to the 19th century? How many parochial schools teach little or no "secular studies?" How employable will those students be later in life? And then the government should issue vouchers so more students attend these religious schools? What kind of education do home-schooled kids get from their non-trained non-educator parents? Shouldn't these and other similar issue be discussed in the context of the quality of American education, as well as teacher effectiveness?

    August 16, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • NClaw441

      Private, parochial and home-schooled children generally succeed at a MUCH higher level than most public school students. Not because these students are inherently smarter or because those schools are THAT much better, but because home-schooling a child, or sending him to private/parochial schools demonstrates that a parent CARES about and VALUES education.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • Duker

      As a former home schooled student I can tell you that not only did I receive a very good education, but I am also highly employable. I have also found out over the years that I have a greater ability to learn as I can easily teach myself new subjects that I am interested in. Please don't let your feelings on a very polarizing issue cloud the topic at hand.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:08 am |
  85. Wolfgang Halbig

    I ran for the school board in Marion County, Florida in 1980. My goal was to improve READING, WRITING and ARITHMETIC.

    32 years later we are still trying to figure out how to improve MATH, READING and WRITING.

    Changing EDUCATION is like like having an old cemetery moved to another location.

    It just will not happen.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  86. closer3

    School starts for me tomorrow. More than anything, I would love to teach! Instead, this year I must present a boxed curricula called Language! This is due to NCLB. It's not aligned with my students' IEPs, Common Core Curriculum, or the State Standards. What a waste. Just let me teach!

    August 16, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • Henry

      How frustrating! I am am a teacher too and fortunately have the freedom to design my own curriculum based on the Common Core. I love my job. I love my school. And most importantly, I love my students even when they are completely unlovable. In any given day in dealing with 160 some students from grades 7-9, I am teacher, Mom to the neglected, social worker, tear wiper, detective, janitor, secretary, police officer...........It is really difficult to have everyone and their dog tell you how horrible teachers are and how schools are beyond hope. I encourage critics to go and spend an ENTIRE day in a school and see for yourself the good, the bad and the ugly. After a "field experience" you might actually have something to add to the debate.

      August 16, 2012 at 8:36 am |
  87. Chris F

    Sad that we are politicizing education and teachers to this extent. Surely we can all agree that we need to have highest education standards within our abilities. Also teachers have a challenging enough role without needing to worry that there are people out there against them. I want teachers to love their job so that my kids are in a positive environment conducive to learning.

    I also feel that in America education funding goes often too much towards having the nicest building possible, whereas I believe we should focus more on the academic standards and on rewarding the teachers.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:26 am |
  88. Chris

    Teachers are expected to do more and more with less and less. The government is not doing educators any favors. Politicians are cutting funding not only for raises but also for school programs. (I was told in 2008 not to expect a raise until at least 2014). A lot of people on these threads like to point out what teachers make, but fail to realize that we may work for nine months, but the pay is spread over a 12 month period and that doesn't mention conferences, re-certification courses, and other obligations that teachers are required to meet. Many school systems do not help with the courses that are needed in order to maintain a teacher's license. People also fail to realize the amount of out of pocket money that teachers spend for their students because the money is simply not supplied by the school system. In some ways the failure of public education can be placed on SOME teachers, but people need to realize that it's a top down system that starts in Washington.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:25 am |
  89. badaboom

    NEWS FLASH!!! U.S. education has been failing for decades!
    That's why we have to import so many engineers, doctors, and other professionals with immigration visas. If we want to improve education within this country we need to stop focusing on Hollywood celebrities so much AND stop throwing away so much money on the military.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • badteacher

      When you go into the offices of the professionals you mentioned look at the wall where did they get their education? Then ask where they went to high school I bet they say somewhere in the USA.

      August 16, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  90. unowhoitsme

    Go back to what worked...reading, writing, and arithmetic, discipline, and NO UNIONS. We produced great thinkers that could acutually read, write, do math and contribute to society. You don't need any "special" curriculum and programs. A total waste of money that ends up in administrator's salaries.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  91. Scott

    A real critical self evaluation of public education will reveal many factors and variables that affect teaching. I have been a public school teacher on the border with Mexico for over 21 years. I believe that the family unit is the most important factor. If the child has been brought up with some appreciation for education as the ticket for their future, they will try. However, many students don't care, are very rude and are just waiting to get out of school that day and at 17 because they have a very difficult "real world" with poor role models. The second biggest factor is poor administration. Most administrators were not very effective teachers for the brief time in the classroom. I have seen "poor' teachers continue for many decades because the adminstration does not want to make the effort to remove them. Forget helping them to become a better teacher; they wouldn't know how! And finally, be very careful to compare classrooms and teachers with their scores from state assessments. If I have English Language Learners and next door has 75% Pre-AP students, then it is not apples vs. apples. It is very naive to rate the entire U.S. public education system as one way or another. It is much more involved then that. I believe there are many excellent teachers in this country working in very difficult situations every day.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  92. Cashawk

    As a teacher for 25 years, I have seen many changes in the educational realm. One thing has remained constant – too many people outside of education dictating what and how curriculum needs to be taught. Additionally, people like Michelle Rhee, who have very little experience in a classroom feel that they know enough about education to make informed decisions that will have a huge impact on the educational experiences of children. Two years experience does not a good administrator make...Too many administrators today have fast-tracked it to their offices with no real idea about the inner workings of a classroom. Consequently, poor teachers slip through the cracks while these inexperienced administrators attempt to "lead." As a teacher who prides herself on quality education for all children, it has become increasingly disheartening as politicians, the media, and the public use teachers as the scapegoats for the failings of society. I have chosen to work with children because I believe that all children have the potential for greatness. Instead of constantly looking at what is wrong in education, we should be looking at all the things that are working for children. The constant need to find the negative serves no purpose except to beat down those of us who actually care and work exceedingly hard each and every day to help children imagine the possibilities and then bring them to fruition. The best thing that parents can do is get involved in their child's learning. Education of children is a team effort – parents, students, and teachers.

    August 16, 2012 at 7:05 am |
    • Mark

      Wonderfully stated.

      August 16, 2012 at 7:24 am |
    • Just a Mom

      Great post!

      In researching my daughter's learning style (she has autism), I discovered my son was a visual learner. Some teachers felt he was ADHD. When I told them that my research had turned up the fact that visual learning styles mimic ADHD tendencies, they looked at me like I was crazy. I gave them the website to read to draw their own conclusions so that they could see where I was coming from and they ignored it. (I followed up with them and none had checked out the website.) I have been fighting this uphill battle ever since. No more ADHD talk though. Surprising.

      In my humble opinion, I think kids need to be identified by their learning style at an early age and ALL KIDS taught in a hands on manner. EVERYONE learns by the hands on method. We wonder WHY kids learn computers, ipads, and cell phones so fast? It's all hands on! I don't care if you are a kid at the bottom of the poverty level or the kid of a bazillionaire.....they all can run a cell phone. My daughter with autism shows ME how to run one!

      Blame can be cast in every direction which is evident by all the responses. I am NOT putting down peoples opinions, just offering my own. I would like to see school districts require more hands on teaching....my son would too. It would improve self esteem overall for these children. They need to know that they are NOT stupid....they just learn differently than by sitting in front of a teacher and listening to a lecture (auditory method). Visual kids (like my son) get bored very easily by just listening and need visual stimuli to assist them in learning. Even just writing information on the board.....would help!

      But everyone learns by the hands on method so I advocate for that to be more widespread in classrooms. This would cover ALL kids....from the bottom of the income scale to the top.

      And I agree...education is a team effort.

      August 16, 2012 at 10:33 am |
      • Athena6515

        There is a school here that uses the method you are speaking of. They actually separated out males and females. They are in different classrooms because studies show that females learn best in groups and by hearing/talking out problems and males do best in seeing and in individual learning. There scores are up.

        August 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
      • wwrrd

        If your kid has special needs, they need to go to a special needs school. One of the problems is that we try to create a system that is too individualized. If we have kids that learn slow, we water down the curriculum so the slow kids will make it.

        Special Needs kids are just that. Take them out of regular classrooms so the majority can do well. This includes, visual learners, dyslexic kids, ADHD and kids with behavior problems.

        August 17, 2012 at 8:34 am |
      • Just a Mom

        Excuse me wwrrd....with thinking like yours, everyone would be segregated. I take it you don't have children. If you did, you would know EXACTLY what I was talking about. Close minded opinions like yours hamper progress. Think outside the box and maybe you'll see a brand new world.

        August 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  93. Rick

    I'm sure the teaching of Creation "Science" will help. Stop teaching our kids dumb stuff. Teach them HOW to think, read write and do math. Have basic requirements and if they are not met, hold them back until they understand. Don't just pass them on. I'm amazed at the people that don't have a basic knowlege of Geography, Science, Math and other subjects. The students in other countries are REQUIRED to study and parents back the teachers up, they aren't trying to sue the teacher because little Billy's feelings got hurt. Stop rewarding failure.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:59 am |
  94. Linda

    I agree with Chris we need to go back to teaching the basics and later follow with the other subjects. These kids today do not have the skills that I learned in school. We were taught to count change, tell time, and learn to read, write and do math at the basic level. Because the kids now a days don't even know their basic history of this country. Case in point a 2ND year college student thought that New Mexico was in Mexico. Trying to teach college graduates to count back change is now an impossible task. If it weren't for the idiot button on the cash register they wouldn't know what to give back in change. I know people who work in cash offices of major big box stores and they can tell who counts back change, who only counts back the bills and those who don't know how to do either.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • NY teacher

      Counting back change In a world of debit card and credit card payments?! From what I seen when making purchases, cashiers today deal very little with cash. Plastic is a more common form of payment. We may see even less use of cash as smartphone technologies can now be used (cashier scans an image on the phone) as a payment method.

      As for the New Mexico/Mexico gaffe a by a 2nd year college student, I'm confident that this student was taught otherwise somewhere in is K-12 education, but he or she may have been one of the numerous students who didn't care enough to learn. Teaching does not always result in learning as evidenced by any of my test results that can range from a 35% to a near perfect score on the same test. Teachers cannot always be blamed for lack of learning. Students have a job to do too!

      August 16, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  95. MI Teacher

    As an 11 year veteran of the public schools, I can assure people that a lot of what has been said is true. My school pulls students from both low and high poverty areas, and a number of those students from poor family homes tend to do much worse in school than students from more well to do homes. In addition to this, we have a high immigrant population, where one or both parents speak little to no English, or who put more importance on having their children work at the family store rather than school. Working with this community is very hard for the teachers at my school, and is something we constantly work and struggle with each year.

    What bothers me is the knee jerk reaction many people have when they look at test numbers from school like mine and immediately say that the answer is something like vouchers and firing teachers. More often than not a number of people point to the tenure laws and say that is where the problem lays. They think tenure protects bad teachers, but that is only the case where there is poor administration monitoring teacher performance. Teachers who receive poor evaluations and are checked up on by administration regularly for problems can, and often do, get fired or laid off. The problem is that often administrators do not take the time to actually do their job and keep up with how their teachers are performing in the classroom.

    Tenure itself is not bad, and has a lot of advantages. We work with teenagers who increasingly seem to feel that there is nothing wrong with cheating and lying to get ahead, that it’s ok to do something dishonest now if it benefits them down the line. In that environment it’s nice to know that a teacher can’t be arbitrarily dismissed because an angry parent or student doesn’t like a grade so they concoct a story to get the teacher in trouble. I once had a student call in a tell the principal that I advocated mass murder in my classroom during a discussion of Hiroshima, only to later learn that the girl who said this was just looking for an excuse to switch into a different class where he boyfriend was. It’s crazy, but that’s what we are dealing with today.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  96. Chris

    Part of the problem is counterintuitive. Teach them less. We are trying to expose our kids to too much at too young an age. History, science, and art are not necessary in 1st grade. 50 years ago, the curricula was not so complicated. It stressed reading, writing, arithmatic, grammar, and spelling. These subjects are not knowledge but rather basic skills. Once they develop these skills children can attain knowledge in any subject.... for the rest of their lives.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • closer3

      I agree with you - and I am a teacher. Not only are we trying to cram in too much, but we are trying to teach abstraction when they are still thinking in concrete terms. We used to introduce multiplication at the end of the second grade and master the facts in the third. Now? Oh, let's introduce them in the first grade. Absurd. In elementary school, students need to get a good base in arithmetic ONLY, basic reading, ability to write a paragraph (not writing a 5 paragraph essay by 5 th grade), and forget about algebra in 6th grade. With this base, they'll be ready to zoom, as they did in the past, in middle and high school. Let the kids succeed!

      August 16, 2012 at 6:53 am |
  97. SSE

    This is a very good point you make. As a teacher with nearly a decade of experience at several different levels and several different schools, the difference from one class to another is not so much the teacher as it is the group set before the teacher. Great teachers are less great when faced with unmotivated, undisciplined, unfocused students. Poor teachers are significantly better when set before a group of high achievers. It all boils down to the energy expended on classroom management vs. teaching.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  98. Bec Le Koshak

    Yes, kids in poverty often stay in poverty. But some don't. I and my sisters are determined not to wind up like the kids around us. We've been to college; our mother insisted that we get an education so we can get out of poverty.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:17 am |
  99. vahid fozi

    "Some of my 8th grade students attend school regularly but cannot read, even on a first grade level. This is a scandal."

    on another level, this is great! they want to learn. fifty years ago they would have been shuffled off to menial jobs or locked into special ed. are they learning to talk to adults by attending school regularly? well, that's a victory too. at least these kids still have a chance, maybe even still a chance to be governor of texas or arizona.

    btw america's not hungary or luxembourg, and who says those kids might not be smart and motivated, and is it the end of the world if they do better on tests?

    i would like to see more people acknowledge the good teachers and students still do in schools, acknowledge the fact that we're still producing some of the world's brightest scholars (and nurturing those from other countries) and stop acting like the educational system is more than 25% of what goes on in any kid's life compared to the influence of culture as a whole, for worse, or for better.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:12 am |
  100. DCPam

    I am a science professional who does outreach in public schools. Some of the classrooms are conducive to learning and some of the classrooms are pure chaos. The difference is always the students.

    August 16, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • ajbuff

      Excellent comment! I teach high school and my classes vary WIDELY depending on the make-up of the students. Some sections are active and/or disinterested, and I spend a lot of energy on classroom management and basic info and skills, and some are passive and will absorb anything I tell them/they read, etc. Some classes are eager, some resistant, and it just depends who is in the group. I have to change my presentation style and modify the curriculum slightly depending on the class, but they all have to take the same state and national tests at the end of the year. Results depend primarily on the motivation of the student to study and absorb what I give them. I can bring them to the water, and I can show them how to drink it, but I can't make them drink it. And since I have a huge base of factual material they MUST know by the end of the year, my ability to spend excessive time on any one thing doing fabulous and fun activities is very low. Some of the kids are a reflection of home, both good and bad, and some are totally different than home and fight efforts their parents make on their behalf. School is a round hole and we jam the square pegs in because we have to. Teacher effectiveness is completely intertwined with who is sitting in the room, how many are sitting in the room, and the information the students are required to learn.

      August 16, 2012 at 6:29 am |
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