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Scrap school boards? this is an interesting article about education reform

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by Teresa, Feb 17, 2008.

  1. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    A modest proposal to fix the schools
    by Matt Miller
    First, Kill All the School Boards


    http://images.google.com/imgres?img...um=1&hl=en&rls=GGLD,GGLD:2004-39,GGLD:en&sa=N

    excerpt
    What of school boards? In an ideal world, we would scrap them?especially in big cities, where most poor children live. That?s the impulse behind a growing drive for mayoral control of schools. New York and Boston have used mayoral authority to sustain what are among the most far-reaching reform agendas in the country, including more-rigorous curricula and a focus on better teaching and school leadership. Of course, the chances of eliminating school boards anytime soon are nil. But we can at least recast and limit their role.
    In all of these efforts, we must understand one paradox: only by transcending local control can we create genuine autonomy for our schools. ?If you visit schools in many other parts of the world,? Marc Tucker says, ?you?re struck almost immediately ? by a sense of autonomy on the part of the school staff and principal that you don?t find in the United States.? Research in 46 countries by Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich has shown that setting clear external standards while granting real discretion to schools in how to meet them is the most effective way to run a system. We need to give schools one set of national expectations, free educators and parents to collaborate locally in whatever ways work, and get everything else out of the way.
     
  2. wrobert

    wrobert Beach Fanatic

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    Tootsie,

    I had not commented on this because I have not been able to reconcile the European way of doing things with the way we do things in Florida.

    First, if the voters wanted to abolish local school boards here, I would have no problem with that. I believe that there are a lot of elected officials whose jobs should be abolished. But the school board here is the local control. The State sets standards or minimums as to what to teach, the school board sets the policies for how this is done. Of course with FCAT and NCLB there seem to be a lot of standards, and a lot of things done to make sure that everyone is included in whatever instructional program is decided upon. But there do seem to be better ways of doing things, this is demonstrated by the school at Seaside and Liza Jackson Academy in Ft. Walton. I think that some sort of accountability has got to be enforced in the system. Getting rid of bad teachers is not impossible, and with the backing of the administration it can be done, but people bend over backwards to try to accomodate, even those that should be out of the system, that it borders on the absurd at times.

    As for parents collaborating on things, do you have any ideas how to get them involved in their child's education? In nowal, they even offer to babysit the siblings and cook dinner and still can only get the parents to show up that would show up anyway.
     
  3. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    :wave:
    well, first of all our county is light years away from true reform, such as discussed in this article. it will happen in other progressive states first, as mentioned here as well.

    but at least we can be aware of some of the thinking going on in other areas of our country (not necessarily europe).

    getting parents involved will take big changes in the way education is done in general.

    when obama talks about overhauling education, or implementing any of his policy ideas, he means that WE have to do the work. and regarding education - parents will have to be very much involved if education matters to them.

    this is all very abstract / ideas for discussion. we are not there. not even close.
     
  4. BeachSiO2

    BeachSiO2 Beach Fanatic

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    I have started to become more interested in school reform due to the successes shown by programs outside of the norm like Charter Schools and Montessori Schools. Although I don't have children in schools, I do have two young nephews that will be entering school soon and friends and family members that have children in those two types. Additionally, my community is working to create a Charter School like Seaside and I have been very impressed with that type of alternative school.

    One issue in Swedish schools that I find to be interesting is their "perform to progress" strategy. If students aren't academically sufficient to continue on for higher education, they are moved into a vocational path. This begins between middle and high school and continues as they progress.

    One final thought I have is that quality education has taken a hit by the "grading on a curve" phenomenon. It doesn't push the exceptional or even the mediocre student as hard as straight up and down testing would. I believe there is a need to make a college education worth something and grading on a curve doesn't do that in my opinion.
     
  5. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    absolutely beachS! there are so many alternative education programs in our own country that are extraordinary examples of what can be done in education, here and now.

    you should check into the montessori philosophy. it is so amazingly amazing, I can't begin to describe it. because the philosophy has been around for many many years, and it was so well thought out based on maria montessori's (physician and teacher) work and study of children, that it is fully applicable and appropriate for every child, and continues to be relevant and define what education should be.

    we are so blessed to have a small montessori school in santa rosa beach!

    a teacher at seaside middle school tells me that their school is very much like montessori, and this the basis for its being such a wonderful school. I've heard a lot of good success stories of children completing that program, over the years (it's nothing new - its an alternative program that's been around here and has offered much to its children and families).
     
  6. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    I think school boards can be excellent, and I think they can be terrible. I think the same goes for mayors. Unfortunately, we don't have a mayor, so this isn't an issue for us yet. A school board, headed by a good superintendent that holds principals accountable but gives them the freedom and respect to allow them to lead their schools effectively, is the best we can hope for in Walton County.

    Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of information regarding almost all of the candidates running in county elections. We have no daily local media, and only one or two weekly papers that try to serve this community directly. (Trying to inform myself about the sheriff's race has been an exercise in futility. My only conclusion after reading this board to try to figure out which candidate might be best is that if a retired English teacher ran they'd get my vote because the first requirement should be good verbal and written communication skills.) We have low information voters because we don't have much information. Low information voters elect based on name recognition, and when name recognition is the criteria the results are almost always bad, the elected officials almost always easily swayed by the most insignificant public pressure, and controlled by power brokers. It's a shame we don't give people the option of voting 'no preference' in races they are not educated about.

    We need to demand better information before elections, and we all need to be less passive and more involved if we want to make this county a better place to live and raise children.

    There are two incumbents on the school board who have my support, and I would love to know how I could do more to help them. It sounds like money is an issue for some candidates. Walton GOP is also endorsed by someone I respect, so I look forward to learning more about his platform (although I think he needs to read the Republicans and Democrats chapter from Audacity of Hope before I could really throw my support behind him ).

    Toots, perhaps we should plan some sort of get together -- sort of a salon type of thing with people of all political persuasions invited -- and invite some of these people to talk to us, and try to do some fundraising for those who seem to have good ideas for our schools. Low information voters and underfunded candidates will never bring about anything more than the status quo.

    I worry about the huge number of children being taken out of our school system to be home schooled, but are left with little schooling and structure and without the tools do make their way in life if they want to do anything other than what their parents plan for them. I keep thinking about that poor 16 year old girl, being home schooled, who when asked about where she might go to college opened her mouth, but was silent as her mother answered for her, "our church doesn't believe in girls going to college -- she'll get married when she's 18 and have babies."

    I worry about things like No Child Left Behind, too.
     
  7. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    I think this strategy is already present in many schools that offer advanced placement or gifted and talented programs. My schools started separating out the classes for Math starting in the 6th grade and English starting in the 9th grade. Once a kid is placed in that track, they can only go down (rare, but occasionally happened when someone decided they didn't want to work as hard and would rather get easy A's or B's as our grades weren't weighted), but it was very difficult to move up into the group.

    IMO grading on a curve is stupid as it just encourages lower standards and not trying. Our teachers not only held us to higher standards on the percentage scale (a 93% in AP English was an A-), they refused to grade on the curve as they felt that it penalized the kids who did well.

    Lower standards = lower results IMO.
     
  8. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    There is one thing that really bothers me about charter schools...and I will acknowledge that it is probably easier for me to say this because I do not have children -- they seem to me to work if the community throws its support and undivided attention into the school. Which is great, for that one school, in that one neighborhood where there are enough people that do not work full time and can dedicate themselves to being on the board and raising funds. But, I fear, this is where we lose sight of our civic duty. One school may save our child, and the children we know personally and therefore care about, but there are a lot of children out there in the community that suffer from this dis-involvement in the county school system by the very people who could do most to insure that children get an excellent education. The two education systems that result will make our county more divided, poorer in some areas and better preparing kids to go off and live somewhere else in others.

    Charter schools are a stop gap solution, but they are not THE solution.
     
  9. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    :puke:
     
  10. wrobert

    wrobert Beach Fanatic

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    Well I went to the library to see if they have it, but it is closed today. If they do not then I will order a copy from Amazon tomorrow and give it a read.
     
  11. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    I don't know enough about how charter schools are run to argue this punzy. but I do know several families who have been involved in charter schools here and other places. It is my understanding that it is a public school but has its own kind of "charter" and oversight. It demands the participation of parents - so you must agree to be involved with your childrens' education. I think this is excellent. too bad you must have a charter school to demand this. parents must agree to all of the rules and regs and standards, etc., set forth in the charter. they actually sign a contract.

    I don't know anything about how the funding works, except the charter school may go forward with annual fundraisers in order to fund programs and salaries as set forth in their charter. another excellent thing, IMO.

    I fail to see how a charter or other alternative school takes away from other schools in the community. I believe families need a variety of choices.

    I do know that several years ago Pt Washington and area parents worked very hard to have Bay Elementary (middle school then i think) turned into a community charter school. the school board did not like the idea and would not allow it to go forward. a lot of families working very hard, who are very involved in their childrens education, had put forth many long hours of work in that project to have it shot down. it was a real disappointment for our area. I believe a principal lost her job over it as well.

    I also know that children and families have enjoyed being part of Seaside Neighborhood School - its a small school and certainly not for everyone. It is considered "alternative". and a wonderful educational environment, supported by Seaside and many individuals and businesses in our community.

    so, I do not see that charter and other alternative schools take away from our public schools. I do think families should have choices. Our children have different learning styles and being able to choose a small alternative school for certain children (and families) is wonderful to be able to do. I've seen families with children in both public and private (right here in sowal) because their children have different learning styles and needs. how great is that?

    the homeschooling trend bothers me a lot too for some reason. I'm very afraid of what these children are being "taught" in their own homes. but I also know some wonderful families who do homeschooling, and do it well.

    none of the above is perfect, that's for sure. I don't propose to scrap the school board, although I do wonder what the hail they are there for sometimes, and why the hail they need to be elected. sounds really suspicious to me. politicians running our schools? maybe we need to take a good look at this sooner rather than later.
    I mean, we do have professional education administrators hired to run schools, make decisions, etc.

    I have my homework cut out. got a lot to learn in the next few years as I make decisions about the placement of my child. I will be interviewing some folks over the next several months...
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2008
  12. rapunzel

    rapunzel Beach Fanatic

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    When I said I think it takes away from other schools, I meant that by focusing on one school that is not inclusive or expansive, the involved parents only improve the school their child attends.

    I applaud the parents who get involved at Seaside, please do not misunderstand me. I think it is fantastic that they get so involved, that they raise funds, and that they see to it that their children get an excellent education. They are the rare exception, and I don't mean to detract from any of the fabulous things they do.

    In this country, though, more than 70% of mothers of school age children work. In most families, that prevents the parents from being as they should and might like to be. When we have charter schools that require parental involvement, we see the involved parents being concentrated in one or two schools, and the children with uninvolved parents end up in a school together. One school gets better and better, the other school suffers.

    In New Orleans, there was one public charter school uptown called Lusher. I volunteered at a museum, and the first few school groups I took on a tour broke my heart. Third graders would struggle to read the simplest words. At first, I was always careful to stand in front of the informational cards next to the paintings so I could ask questions and discuss things before they saw the artist or date. I got out of that habit. I gave a tour to some first graders in the fall, and when I got to my first painting I did my spiel, "This is a road in New Orleans that I know you all travel all the time. Does anyone recognize it?"

    One little girl all but rolled her eyes, pointed to the card, and said, "It's Magazine Street."

    The difference was so pronounced I was blown away. In New Orleans, the kids of parents who can be involved send their kids to a charter school, the parents who are well off but busy send the kids to private school, and the rest go to the public schools. No one pays much attention to the state of the schools. No one demands accountability of the school board. No one demands quality public school open to everyone. It leads to a permanent dependent underclass.

    I'm not comparing Walton County to New Orleans. I know there is no comparison. I'm not passing judgment, because I know if I had a child I might wish they could go to school with people of different racial and socio-economic backgrounds, but if that wasn't an excellent place to get and education I'd be doing everything I could to get my child into the charter school.

    But, IMO, the community would be better off if all the schools were more or less equal in the education they offered. If all children got the same education, all the energy going into a charter school would instead be focused on the school system, and then every child would have a decent shot at becoming a successful adult, not limited by the circumstances into which they were born. Kumbaya....kum-bay-a....:roll:

    I think I'm speaking in generalities and the community as a whole, while you are thinking about a child entering school next year.

    And to clarify my remarks about home schooling, I know that 90% of the children are getting a fantastic education from parents with the best intentions. It's the few and far between children that are not getting much formal instruction year after year, that aren't being socialized, or are not learning about all their opportunities after high school that I worry so much about. It doesn't seem to me that there is any oversight of home schoolers.
     
  13. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    70% of the mothers work? Maybe the FATHERS could do something then! Takes 2 to make 'em, 'cuz it takes 2 to raise them! :angry:

    IMO it is a matter of priorities. Both my parents worked full time and managed to raise 2 kids who got good grades and were involved in a variety of sports and extracurricular activities (so many that I had to edit to only submit one page w/ my college applications).

    They obviously weren't available for most activities during the workday (unless we had to come home sick), but they never missed a concert, important game, or parent/teacher conference. They knew my teachers, they knew my classes, they were involved in my schooling, and there were consequences for bad grades that resulted from not turning in homework or paying attention in class.

    I went to a public school in a working class neighborhood and I believe I got a comparable or better education than many of my peers in private schools because of the level of parental involvement and discipline.

    IMO&E apathetic and absentee parents are the reason kids don't get an education, not economic class, school funding, ethnicity, or sadly natural ability.
     
  14. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    punzy and scoot - you both have really good points. and it just shows how education is very complicated and especially in each kind of city or area.

    and yes scooterbug - I believe the parents must be supportive in their childrens' education, regardless of what kind of education setting they are in - and this means getting the kid to school, caring about his performance, knowing his teachers, and providing a range of experiences outside school.

    we are very fortunate in walton county - our public schools are excellent. parents I know are almost always pleased with teachers, school experience, etc. and we're blessed to have Bay Elem right in our neighborhood - it's a community school that has been very popular among families for a very long time!

    and punzy - I think you are talking about what you've seen in NO. not necessarily problems here - yet. though we did hear from a safety and attendance officer at a recent parent education meeting - our schools have children who don't attend for weeks at a time because parents don't want to get up and get them ready. the officer visits the homes to find the child at home with parents in bed or not there at all. you can imagine all the reasons for this kind of situation. its very sad. and its right here.

    I am happy to have at least a few choices in education program and setting in sowal. and thrilled to know another middle school is coming to Pt Washington - a neighborhood that will become a kind of education center. you could not ask for a more beautiful and natural environment, surrounded by families who are settled here long term.

    we have been in a private school for 4 years - 95% of those parents never step foot on school ground unless mandatory (conference), or unless its a major holiday event. I've known a lot of non-working mothers who say: I've got a life, so when my kid is in school I need my time to do what I need to do. I don't have time to volunteer at the school. I pay tuition and they should have enough staff. sorry, I'm late for yoga! sorry, can't help, I've got a really important tennis lesson today! my personal trainer is waiting for me... end of story. there are always 3-5 moms (and sometimes a dad) available to help with special projects, events, etc. and I think that is sad.
     
  15. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    If another news journalists incorrectly uses the word, "ironically," meaning coincidentally, I may throw up in my mouth. Can someone please educate the future journalists? They are the only people I ever hear misusing the word, and they do it frequently.
     
  16. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    I always wonder why people like that become parents! :idontno:

    Neglect doesn't just happen in poor households!
     
  17. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Becoming a parent requires no thinking. NOT becoming a parent, requires thinking.
     
  18. scooterbug44

    scooterbug44 SoWal Expert

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    Too true! :roll:
     
  19. SGB

    SGB Beach Fanatic

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    I totally understand your point, and agree to a certain extent, but let me say that I don't think that is necessarily true here. My kids go to Seaside and there are many parents that are very involved, and many that aren't. It does take a lot more effort on the part of some to keep the great programs as Seaside going (the teachers are paid for by the county, but the building, computers and any other equipment or extras need to be paid by the school. The Seaside Half Marathon and Via Colori are our 2 major fund raisers. BUT, I don't think that Emerald Coast Middle School has suffered as a result. Every year ECMS gets better and better. There are a lot of very involved parents there as well. Thankfully this results in 2 great options for our middle schoolers. As someone said, different environments fit different kids and we are lucky enough to have two choices here. I've seen kids switch from one to the other when the fit wasn't right and what they needed was at the other school.

    I am now worrying about high school.... I have seen many improvements in the high school since it opened. Much of that is due to involved parents and parents that have brought their kids back to the high school here from either Niceville or Arnold. Again - we do have choices. The collegiate high school is a great option for some and the dual enrollment program that we have access to seems to be wonderful. SWHS still needs a lot of improvement, but I'm really hoping that SWHS can continue to improve, and when augmented with the virtual school and OWC, will provide a great foundation for a college education.
     
  20. Teresa

    Teresa SoWal Guide Staff Member

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    I know.

    but in most of these cases, the parents are good parents and have plenty of time to make sure their children participate in every recreational sport known to man outside of school hours. so, they are there for their kids. its just an ingrained attitude about how school and teachers should do their jobs - it's not my job - kind of mentality.

    I was thinking of punzy's experience in new orleans. my niece has been in private schools there since preschool - she's in fifith grade now. it was my understanding that there is absolutely no other choice given the rock bottom state of education in that city - and has been the case for dozens of years. paying private tuition is part of life just like paying for electricity or a car or mortgage. this is an example of schools gone very wrong. and probably the case in many cities across the US.
     

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