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Wed May 27, 2015, 04:39 PM

This researcher asked kids what's wrong with U.S. schools. Here are their ideas.


Kids spend more time in school than anyone. They've got strong opinions about school. They have opinions on what is working.

She talked to the only students who could have firsthand knowledge of the differences between schools in top-performing countries and those in the U.S.: American kids who were exchange students in those countries.
She surveyed hundreds of exchange students and found three major points that they all agreed on.

The students all said that in their host countries:

School is harder. There's less homework but the material is more rigorous. People take education more seriously, from selecting the content to selecting the teachers.
Sports are just a hobby. In the U.S., sports are a huge distraction from the business of school, but that's not the case in other countries.
Kids believe there's something in it for them. The students in other countries deeply believe that what they are doing in school affects how interesting their lives were going to be. Even if they don't like a class, they see their education as a stepping stone to their future.

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Reply This researcher asked kids what's wrong with U.S. schools. Here are their ideas. (Original post)
eridani May 2015 OP
Mnemosyne May 2015 #1
eppur_se_muova May 2015 #2
Igel May 2015 #3

Response to eridani (Original post)

Wed May 27, 2015, 05:13 PM

1. About time someone asked the kids. Thanks eridani! nt

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Response to eridani (Original post)

Wed May 27, 2015, 08:09 PM

2. On that third point: Americans have a long tradition of dissing "book learnin'".

Lots of Western movies feature a stock character of a professor or other scholar "from back east" who has book smarts -- often parodied as a knowledge of Latin or Greek, philosophy, etc. -- but doesn't know how to do all the manly cowboy things that a feller needs to do to make it in the real world. There may have been a small number of real people who fit that stereotype, but mostly it's a fantasy construct to justify skipping school.

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Response to eridani (Original post)

Wed May 27, 2015, 09:22 PM

3. The local NPR station in Houston had a segment talking to kids about school.

Mostly they echoed the standard talking points.

Within a school district, the example they gave were AP classes. History or government, IIRC. One school, minority-majority, had hundreds of kids take the AP test and a handful pass. The other had a large number score 5s and 4s.

"More money" was the explanation. "Outdated textbooks."

Except that the teachers make the same at both schools. Per student spending may be different, but very often it's very, very close. With a large different in educational outcomes, nonetheless. Not sure about the "outdated textbooks," either: AP teachers at a school often choose their textbooks by campus (at least in this neck of the woods), but the district-level funding is usually there and equitable.

It's what the students have been taught to say. And it conveniently blames others.

Better explanation: Motivation and background. The AP test has a lot of writing. As a school declines, AP enrollment numbers change. And the administration pressures the AP teachers to make sure that enrollment in the courses stays up. Timed essays, like on the AP test? No--it sets kids up for failure in class and lowers their GPAs, discouraging enrollment. Retesting? Absolutely, even if it does tell students that the first test is for practice. "Advanced academics" enrollment makes the school look good; it's a box to be checked off for students. The goal isn't learning; the goal is transcript enhancement, with the course itself an obstacle.

As the two students said, in discussing their AP test prep. The kid from the poor-performing school said that the night before the test she crammed the night and days before the test, read the textbooks, looked through notes, etc. The kid from the high-performing school said he didn't really prepare for the test--he already knew the stuff and so he had nothing to really focus on. That tells me that one kid had done only what was required during the school year, and when the big hurdle came along tried to catch up; the other kid did what was expected during the school year, and so was prepared. (One was probably a frustration for her teacher; the other probably wasn't. This isn't something that the kids learned during that year of school; it's something they learned in the previous 16 years of their lives.)

Yet they agreed it was all about money.

And, buried in the context, it's all about denying some equal opportunity. As though "equal outcomes" and "equal opportunity" were the same.

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