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Three Unexpected Data Points Describe Elementary School Quality

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the real-estate-value-is-a-simpler-proxy dept.

Education 343

garthsundem writes with a link to his story in Wired, according to which "Test scores and student/teacher ratio are nearly meaningless. But three new numbers do describe school quality: 1. (Test Scores/Parent Education): How do scores outpace expectations? 2. Test Score Growth: Any single score can be socioeconomics, but growth is due to the school. 3. (Teacher Salary*%Highly Qualified/Teacher Age): The best teachers will become highly qualified early, and will gravitate toward the best paying jobs." These factors seem to be at least interesting starting points; if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?

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The Obvious Answer (5, Funny)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981653)

if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?


Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981755)

Even if you are being funny I think enhancing in-school education with some homeschooling is the best option. Parents sitting down with their children and going over their homework with them can make up for almost any crappy school. Assuming, of course, that the parents aren't less-knowledgeable about a subject than their children.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981923)

Not to mention covering the huge gaps public education tends to leave out... personal finance in particular. I graduated high school six years ago and the closest we got to personal finance was a lesson on how to balance a checkbook... nothing about making decisions, weighing options, etc. Fortunately, my parents have been pretty money savvy, so I'm doing much better in overall quality of life than most of the people I graduated with - even those in much higher paying fields.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982691)

We seriously considered homeschool, we settled on one school and entered open enrollment. We were waitlisted, so we went homeschool, until our position in the waitlist came up. The tipping point was that in homeschool it is harder to give your children a real world social education. You will sign them up for Soccer, Swimming, Baseball, Whatever, but this will be full of kids with reasonably like minded parents, which means your kids will be exposed to a relatively homogenous social environment. The world is not like that.
Our outlook is that school is primarily for the social education: pecking orders, dealing with bullies, understanding that differences in race, creed, socioeconomic status are not bad. Hard education (reading, writing, arithmetic) are actually secondary and are taught at home through the "unschooling" methodology whenever possible.
In a nutshell unschooling is the idea that simply drilling math, science, etc. into a child's head is likely to make them resentful of the subject. Instead use applied math when doing fun things like cooking (an excellent way to teach reading, fractions, weights, measures, burn treatment, and first aid). Similar applied education when shopping, going to the zoo, having a pet and accounting for the costs involved, etc.
The upside: Very smart, reasonably well adjusted children. The downside: requires over double the effort as a parent compared to just dropping your kids off at school every day. The way I look at it, you are a parent, this is a job you are morally required to do.

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982709)

Apparently you and most of your classmates did not understand that those "story problems" in math class were about decision making and weighing options. If you never realized that you are supposed to set up your own story problems relevant to your own life, and you are relying on the advise of others then you got a bad education, you are lazy, and you're NOT getting smarter. What are you going to do when you parents die? Stop blaming others for your myopia.

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38983073)

Those "story problems" never covered the advantages of buying a car over leasing a car, renting an apartment vs owning a house, paying more for a higher quality item that will last much longer and give an eventual better return on investment or how to balance paying off loans vs adding to savings. However, it did teach me that some people really like to hoard apples.

What am I going to do when my parents die? The whole point is that they taught me the essentials while I was growing out. Now that I've been on my own for a few years, I'm using what I learned growing up to make intelligent financial decisions and that I would be at a serious loss if I only learned what was taught in a public high school.

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982895)

What's a checkbook? I don't think I've ever seen one.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981961)

Parents sitting down with their children over their homework has 10x the effect on the overall education and outlook of the children than the quality of the school itself. Even *if* the parents are less knowledgeable than their children - putting a value on education is what is important.

The common thread with every overachieving nerd I've known is that they were taught from an early age to enjoy learning, and that knowledge was important - long before they actually got to elementary school.

Re:The Obvious Answer (2, Insightful)

berashith (222128) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982325)

yup. Books in the home is another interesting metric. If the parents live by an example of valuing knowledge and information then that may actually be picked up on by the kids.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Interesting)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982615)

yup. Books in the home is another interesting metric.

Steven Levy addressed this in his book "Freakonomics". He found that although "books in the home" is correlated with better performance in school, once you correct for the IQ of the parents, it actually makes no difference at all.

People come up with a lot of "theory of the day" explanations for improving education, but the biggest determinants of a child's performance are the IQ of the biological parents, and their birth weight. Instead of spending billions on the schools, maybe we should first spend 0.001% of that on folic acid supplements for pregnant women, and encouraging breast feeding. It would make a bigger difference.

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982975)

Books in the home is another interesting metric.

An iPad counts as a gazillion books, right?

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

garthsundem (1702946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982861)

This is something I wonder about almost every day: are kids REALLY better off when parents help with homework? It's certainly my bent, but then I wonder if my kids wouldn't be better off figuring their work out on their own. I don't know the answer -- anyone? I do the same thing with Legos -- we just built the Millennium Falcon and I know Leif wouldn't have been able to do it on his own. But would he have been better off in the long run doing a less complex kid, independently, and then building toward the Falcon?

Re:The Obvious Answer (3, Informative)

garthsundem (1702946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982813)

I would agree completely if it weren't for this: despite the fact that I write about the science of education and my wife is a former spectacular teacher, our kids learn better from teachers other than us. For example, we started skiing this year -- my wife and I had our 5yo in a ski harness. Two lessons later with the "Eldorables" program and he's snowplowing independently like a bowling ball on stilts. The same is true of writing -- my wife and I would set up spectacularly fun writing and drawing projects that wouldn't go anywhere -- then in kindergarten, Leif loves the basic assignments they give. Of course we love reading and playing card games with the kids, but in terms of education, I think the culture of school promotes learning in a way we can't mimic at home.

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 2 years ago | (#38983007)

As long as you don't factor socialization as something schools teach. Which I do. Especially since I was home schooled for 2 years and know many home schooled adults. And no special home schooling outings don't count. The socialization schools provide is being with people you don't like day-in day-out. That's a real life skill.

Re:The Obvious Answer (2)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | more than 2 years ago | (#38983093)

That's not homeschooling. That is just what one is supposed to do as a parent. That anyone would put their trust in the average teacher to do it right is beyond me. And most of them ARE average or worse. A good teacher is a rare thing.

Re:The Obvious Answer (4, Insightful)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981767)

Someone modded this Funny, they must think you are being ironic. Given the current state of US schools touting SOL scores and pushing the curriculum for, I'd say parent is Insightful.

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982041)

It's funny because it's the obvious response to "What's the alternative to schools?" not "What alternate criteria did you look at?"

Re:The Obvious Answer (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981775)

Home schooling misses the entire point of sending children to school. Sure they are there to learn a broad spectrum of topics to have a basic understanding of the world. and sure IF you are a good teacher, and you dam well better be one cause otherwise it will be pointless, you could accomplish that. However sending them to school give the child much needed social expierence, yes even being bullied is important to a degree. With out this expierence you end up with fairly inteligent 20 year old children that noone wants to hire or work with.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

bmajik (96670) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982377)

I'm glad you've come out and said it: that public schools aren't for teaching our best and brightest, but instead are for some kind of malthusian social conditioning; conditioning our most gifted children to understand that their lives will be controlled by mouth breathing masochists.

No thanks. I won't dump that lie on my kids.

Today, I work for an employer where there are no stupid people and nobody who mistreats me. And I never interact with any human being unless it is on my terms. I carry a gun most places I go because I can, and because when I insist I'd rather not deal with someone, I plan on _meaning_ it.

I consider the idea that a sick and broken world might consider me "mal-adjusted" or "anti-social" a mark of excellence. To be judged normal or sane by a detestable malady of garbage would be a tremendously hurtful insult.

Your social conditoining doesn't interest me.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

Necroman (61604) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981823)

Homeschooling is a good option if you have parents that are up for the challenge. My wife plans on homeschooling our kids, as she was home schooled herself (along with her 2 sisters). Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap because it is portraid by either the crazy people or ultra religious people. There are plenty of normal families that homeschool their kids and they turn out just fine, don't be distracted by the crazies.

Re:The Obvious Answer (4, Insightful)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982067)

I really want to believe you, and maybe as homeschooling becomes more of a normal thing, it will happen.. but I've volunteered with homeschool groups and had many classmates who were home schooled for their earlier education... and I've never met one that I'd say was well-adjusted. It could be that given their parents, they would be poorly adjusted nerds anyway - but as much as I am tempted, it makes me really scared to try it with my children (or are likely to be on the nerdy end of the spectrum to begin with).

The best results I've seen are my neighbor's kids, who interact very well with adults, but who seem like they will get eaten alive when they go off to college and have to deal with people who aren't inherently nice, logical, and having their best interests at heart.

Re:The Obvious Answer (2)

chispito (1870390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982817)

I've volunteered with homeschool groups and had many classmates who were home schooled for their earlier education... and I've never met one that I'd say was well-adjusted.

My experience is 100% the opposite. I suppose it depends on your definition of "well-adjusted." My nephew went from homeschool to public elementary, and so far has been disappointed how much time is wasted, and that he can't just finish all his homework in class. (And presumably go home at lunch time).

but who seem like they will get eaten alive when they go off to college and have to deal with people who aren't inherently nice, logical, and having their best interests at heart.

Homeschool is far more similar to college than traditional schools are. You teach yourself at your own pace. There are also obvious social benefits: good kids get to be good and bad kids don't spoil things for the rest.

Re:The Obvious Answer (2)

ClockworkGods (2570901) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982843)

To a little extent, I agree with you. I was entirely homeschooled, and I was (and still am) somewhat socially inexperienced. The greater part of that is due more to my own solitary nature, though -- I'm a /. reader, after all. :) My sisters were also homeschooled and are extremely outgoing, and even I'm not a complete loss. Most people wouldn't guess any of us were homeschooled, and are surprised if we tell them.

We also weren't exclusively stay-at-home kids. If you want to homeschool your kids, I think it's a great thing to do, but you need to join it with other groups. If you can find a bunch of other local homeschoolers, set up a group for friends, field trips and other excursions. If your kid is interested in airplanes, the military, or search and rescue, you might have a local Civil Air Patrol squadron with a cadet program. I also believe that schools are supposed to allow you to participate in sports and other school activities...good luck on that, if you even want to.

Re:The Obvious Answer (-1, Redundant)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982189)

100% homeschooled children will never gain the life-skills they need. The one thing schools do teach children is that you aren't always going to like the people you are stuck working with and that a thick skin is essential to succeeding in the world.

Re:The Obvious Answer (5, Insightful)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982343)

100% homeschooled children will never gain the life-skills they need.

Sure they can. Parents can be responsible for socializing their children as well. School is not the only way that children can learn socialization skills.
I can tell you though that getting out of public school in many cases is the only way they are going to learn math.

Re:The Obvious Answer (4, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982395)

It isn't about making friends. It's actually the opposite - making enemies and dealing with having to work with them on projects. Unless, of course, homeschooling parents force their kids to do project with kids they don't like. That would be pretty open minded of them.

Also, most likely they will socialize with kids from similar backgrounds and belief systems. They won't have the experience of meeting and accepting people who are different from them.

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982815)

They won't have the experience of meeting and accepting people who are different from them.

Considering that the bolded portion doesn't happen in public schools either, I really don't see a problem.

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982465)

Because holy shit if you're homeschooled it means you never leave your home!

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38983029)

Oh, obviously people are better able to learn to handle the random abuses of crappy people before they mature and learn to handle their own emotions. Right.

Next you'll tell me that the best way to train soldiers is to shove them immediately into live fire combat, and then train the survivors afterwards.

My children, incidentally, know good and well the necessity of a thick skin despite being homeschooled; I have five of them, and no one's tougher on them than they are.

I'd argue, in fact, that the reverse is true; public ed doesn't teach your children about paying bills on time, handling their personal finances, what's involved in being a self sufficient adult. My wife and I are teaching our children these things as well as science, math, latin, literature, and we're doing all of this without the BS indoctrination into societal conformity.

My children will be different. We consider this a good thing.

Re:The Obvious Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982701)

Homeschooling has gotten a bad rap because it is portraid by either the crazy people or ultra religious people.

Or people that can't spell.

Science education (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981829)

if you've shopped around for elementary schools, what else did you consider?


For decent science and math education, homeschooling may be the only choice. And no, it's not all the Bible thumpers' fault.

Re:The Obvious Answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981937)

Any parent who does not do some supplementary teaching of their child is doing them a gross disservice.

Re:The Obvious Answer (4, Interesting)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982023)

I've always considered the single most important determinant in scholastic success to be my involvement in our childrens education. I didn't consider home schooling because I didn't have the time or inclination to do so and I wanted our children to be in the social situation that school provides. My involvement was twofold. First is helping with homework and asking about what is being taught. Second is adhering to practices that emphasize the value of education. For example, we never pulled our children out of school for an extra day or two of vacation. That simply sends the wrong message.

I suspect the parent was not meant to be funny.

Re:The Obvious Answer (3, Interesting)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982313)

It's unfortunate that politicians and bible thumpers have added a stigma to the idea of parents helping their children learn. I also get sick of parents who pretend they are doing their kids a favor by sheltering them from big bad public schools. I imagine the majority of parents who home-school are really dropping a stack of books in front of their kids and telling them "do it".

Parents involving themselves in their children's learning makes a difference. I don't pretend to be an educator and I think my kids have decent teachers. My two very bright girls attend a public school and there's no doubt in my mind they will someday plot to take over the world.

I have two children in 3rd grade at a local elementary. A typical evening it takes ~one hour to help them both with homework. That homework always includes a short book followed by writing a paragraph about the story. Next there's a list of 20 spelling words they must memorize for a Friday quiz. Recently we've been working on division and multiplication flash cards as they are doing timed tests. I also stuck an app on their itouchs with timed math games. They also bring home a "blue sheet" which must be signed every evening where my wife or myself pledge we reviewed and assisted with homework.

Every semester my wife and I are surprised by the number of other parents who skip parent-teacher conferences.

Re:The Obvious Answer (2)

garthsundem (1702946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982761)

Okay, so if I'm being honest, school quality is only one factor among many in our school choice conundrum. In addition, we're weighing the desire to seat our kids in the community of our neighborhood school along with the kids we see in our 'burb everyday. And then there's the commute. And potential tuition at privates. And much, much more. With, like 1000 true variables in addition to education quality, how oh how can parent's make a rational choice? Er....

Re:The Obvious Answer (-1, Flamebait)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982853)

The problem with homeschooling is finding one that isn't rife with ridiculous religious indoctrination.

"News for nerds"! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981657)

/.ers don't have kids: it would require performing the sexy time with a willing female!

Re:"News for nerds"! (-1, Troll)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981785)

I'll mod any female /.ers Insightful if in their reply they post links to webcam of themselves and their willing female partner performing sexy time.

ceteris paribus (3, Insightful)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981677)

2. Test Score Growth: Any single score can be socioeconomics, but growth is due to the school.

... if you can keep all other factors constant by freeze-framing the rest of the world.

Re:ceteris paribus (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981997)

This also breaks down with a small sample size. My school had a typical grade size of 50-70 students. Between 4th and 6th grade, it wouldn't be unusual for 4 or 5 kids to leave and an equal or greater number to come in from elsewhere. If the kids leaving were generally underperformers and the ones coming in were generally overperformers, then the test score growth figures would be pretty skewed. In cases of developing or revitalized areas, this would be a likely trend as people of lower socioeconomic status move out and greater socioeconomic status move in.

Re:ceteris paribus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982361)

Two issues with growth.

A. You are going to top out eventually as there is a maximum score.
2. Any single change in score could also be socioeconomic... Working extra hours -> can't help little Timmy with homework

There is never a magic bullet (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981693)

Your best bet when shopping for schools is to find out what the average property tax paid in the area was last year. That's really the only way to find out if the school is worth it or not -- how well it's funded.

Looking at test scores is never the right answer. Ever. I can't repeat this enough to parents out there. The only part of the summary I can even remotely begin to agree with is the qualifications of the teachers; my high school, for example, had about 85%-90% of all its instructors with Masters degrees or higher in their fields.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (5, Informative)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981791)

Your best bet when shopping for schools is to find out what the average property tax paid in the area was last year. That's really the only way to find out if the school is worth it or not -- how well it's funded.

hahahahahahaha. My home city of Newark, NJ is closing 7 schools [] for underperforming. Severely.

Our schools are falling apart across the board, too. Wilson Avenue school, for instance, had to be closed because it was flooded with water laced with benzene [] .

We spend just shy of $17,000 [] per student. So no, funding alone is not a good indicator at all.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982075)

I would imagine funding also has a lot to do with school types. When I was in high school, I believe it came down to $1-$2,000/year per student on bussing costs alone. It's a fairly rural school located midway between the two main villages it serves. I can only remember two families within walking distance and even then most parents wouldn't let their kids walk down a 55mph road until they were in high school.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982107)

Wilson Avenue school, for instance, had to be closed because it was flooded with water laced with benzene []

Well, you are talking about New Jersey, aren't you?

Re:There is never a magic bullet (1)

deacent (32502) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982855)

I feel for you. I lived on campus at NJIT in the early 90s. At the time, our campus was adjacent to Central High which has since moved. Newark has a lot of problems that run together so much, it's hard to tell where to start. Christy hasn't been kind to public schools in general and especially punative towards struggling urban schools. This is short-sighted and not at all in keeping with the point of having a government which is to maintain a stable society.

I haven't been to Newark in a very long time, but I'd be surprised if things have changed a lot. There was a great deal of mistrust all the way around. Residents mistrusted officials because of so many broken promises ("life will be better" followed by status quo or corruption). The Newark Teacher Union was suspicious of help offered by the colleges because they thought it would be an opening to start firing teachers or reducing their benefits. The mostly white middle-class and non-US college students and staff kept to themselves while worrying about local crime (muggings and car theft occurred several times a month on campus alone) and stayed in the suburbs as much as they could.

It's hard to imagine that there was a time in the distant past (about 70 years ago) when Newark had so much more going for it but it did. For the most part, the residents of Newark that I met are good, hard-working people who deserve a lot better than snarky comments about their home.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (3, Informative)

g0bshiTe (596213) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981945)

I can attest to this. My child was going in a Title III elementary school. We moved to another district with a higher socioeconomic ratio the school was Title I. Within 2 months she got put into AP classes. Fast forward to today, she's in High School in the Academy program. Had we still let her continue at the Title III school I've no doubt she would be in normal classes and at best an average student. At least 4 times during her time at the Tittle III school she was referred to the AP program of her school but due to funding/teachers leaving she never got accepted. Most of the time the AP teachers were leaving the school. The turn over for AP teachers was 1 per year. All the while this school pushed teaching the kids what they needed to know to keep the score of the school up during SOL's so they could keep their funding next year. As a result my daughter never learned to write in cursive, so we have been teaching her for the last few years.

This is why I'm firmly against basing a school on a standardized test. They will create a curriculum based around it and the tests questions vs teaching the kids anything of actual value.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (4, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982131)

As a result my daughter never learned to write in cursive

... and nothing of value was lost? I, nor anyone I know, has had any use for knowing this "skill."

Re:There is never a magic bullet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981991)

That's really the only way to find out if the school is worth it or not -- how well it's funded.

Ridiculous. We're talking about elementary school here!
I live in a below-median-price five-bedroom house, in a neighborhood with several large low-income apartment complexes. My kids walk a couple hundred feet to a Title I [] elementary school. Even with the federal help the school's always struggling for money.

Yesterday morning (my day off) I spent an hour as one of four parents volunteering in my son's first grade class. Each of us had four students, and the teacher had maybe eight more. I was quizzing kids on recognizing two-digit numbers and basic vocabulary words. We rotated groups a couple of times in the hour, and every kid I was with was getting over 90% right.

Most of these kids are poor, and a lot of them lack parental help with homework. But I think the school is doing a pretty good job. I'm satisfied with the education my kids are getting. Of course, we do a lot of things at home, and my kids are voracious readers.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (4, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981993)

There is no correlation between teacher qualification and effectifveness. I truly wish this myth would die.

Re:There is never a magic bullet (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982061)

It was probably close to a decade or so ago I saw it so I don't know if it still holds true- but I remember seeing a spreadsheet of average state spending per child- and state rank based on SATs.

It was surprising: back then at least there was no correlation between amount spent per child and SAT scores. (although how much of this was reactionary- our schools stink, so lets spend more).

I think a more qualifying thing would be WHAT do the schools spend the money on? Is it hiring more talented teachers- or upgrading the sports complex and masseusses to give the athletics teams foot rubs and happy endings?

Re:There is never a magic bullet (1)

Big_Oh (623570) | more than 2 years ago | (#38983077)

SAT scores are bad to correlate with because they have nonobvious selection biases. For example, the state schools in Indiana don't require the SAT at all, so only those students who are hoping to leave the state for school take the SAT. This inflates the scores dramatically. In other places (Vermont, perhaps?) the SAT is required for all colleges, and so essentially all high school students take the SAT, deflating scores. Throw in the effect of guidance counselors recommending school A instead of school B, and SAT (by state, or by school) make very poor predictors. Even by student, it doesn't do very well, but that's another post.

Asking around? (2)

accessbob (962147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981703)

Chances are, I would trust to the experience of my friends and relatives in their experiences of particular schools. Experience in the UK would suggest that once metrics become well known, schools/hospitals/whoever work to manipulate the results. Surveys of actual recent experience work much better.

Re:Asking around? (1)

hotseat (102621) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981771)

Problems of schools gaming the stats not withstanding, this isn't a good approach. Your friends and family will have only anecdotal evidence of some schools at some periods of time; reputations tend to catch up with actual quality in the long run, but this can take several years.

In short, your algorithm is an excellent way of finding out what some people like you thought were good schools some years ago - it's not an efficient way to find out where your kid might be best off in the future.

Re:Asking around? (1)

accessbob (962147) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981907)

I think you misread slightly. I wrote: " recent experience" i.e. those who have children in school now.

Sample of 2 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981735)

Awesomeness when you compare two schools by these measures, don't draw any real conclusions, have a huge disclaimer, and then profess that you have unlocked the code to defining good education.

Re:Sample of 2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981853)

I also really can't agree with the results drawn, at least not as it pertains to the information they're actually trying to find. For example look at their first formula, test scores/over parent education. A school in an uneducated, largely immigrant community where the majority of parents didn't even graduate high school would put up a huge number in this, while a top notch, high cost private school where the parents all have masters and doctorates could easily put up a low score. But I'd still probably be better off sending my kid to the private school. Similar problems for the second formula. About 10 or 15 years ago, Hartford Public Schools had the fastest rising test scores in the country due to an influx of cash and some massive organizational changes. But even after the increase, it was still one of the five worst public school systems in the country.

Hallway Noise Ratio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981751)

Pre-Bell Decibels / Post-Bell Decibels - results above 2 signify appropriate level of discipline

S/T Ratio DOES matter (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981759)

As a teacher, I agree with the bulk of this article. However, I absolutely disagree with student/teacher ratio not being a factor in quality education. When I started teaching, a mere seven years ago, my average class size was 23:1 with one "giant" class of 32. My average class size now is 40:1. It is impossible to offer the same quality of teaching and one-on-one to a large group. However, good teaching is still good teaching, and we muddle along to advanced scores; but it is much for difficult to help those who are truly struggling.

On another note, the factor of growth being the key metric is essential to understand. Lousy teachers can have great test scores depending on what community they are in (socio-economic), but it takes a truly skilled and effective teacher to be able to help students grow.

Re:S/T Ratio DOES matter (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982179)

I think it also depends on whether the teacher knows how to address groups of different sizes. I had a number of teachers who had to rework their entire curriculum because either the class size was much smaller than previous years due to declining population in the district, or the class size was much larger because the number of teachers for that subject had been reduced. Some teachers can only teach large classes effectively, some are only effective with small classes and some can easily do both.

Re:S/T Ratio DOES matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982757)

Grown up in HK, the average class size is 45, many of my classmates turn out just fine. Doctors, engineers and a few criminal in the mix. Stop complaining, teacher.

Re:S/T Ratio DOES matter (0)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982777)

On the other hand, in my experience the best schools tend to have the biggest class sizes, because all the students want to go there. So it's not like class size doesn't matter, more like it has multiple effects that cancel each other out.

census data is your friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981795)

A lot of the education/economic data is available on a fairly fine scale from census data, if you're interested. (as opposed to, say, asking the local chamber of commerce or real estate industry, which tend to have a dog in the fight).

Looking at year over year growth (6th grade vs 2nd) is a start, but you also have to consider the past history of the school, to make sure you're doing an apples to apples. For instance, in areas where there is rapid population change, the students in 6th grade may not be the same students in 2nd grade 4 years earlier (extreme example, a big research oriented biotech company comes in with hundreds of graduate level educated employees and their children OR to take the other side, your city opens its doors to refugees from a disaster somewhere else, so you have a cohort of students who have experienced great disruption in their education

Actually, one of the best predictors of performance in schools is the change in scores from sprint to fall (over summer vacation). And that's correlated very well (and probably causal too) to things like the number of books in the parents' house, the availability of appropriate activities over the summer (not necessarily summer school or organized sports, but something other than strengthening your thumb on the remote control) and, of course, that correlates with socioeconomic standing, which in turn correlates with educational attainment (the buzz phrase in the statistics)

In the Ojai data, one has to be a bit careful, because Ojai just isn't that big a place. It's also not very typical in terms of the kinds of people who live there, being a sort of combination of agriculture, artsy folks, and high end tourist resorts, and the service people who serve them. You want to be careful about applying ratio tests derived from large populations on a small population if there is a lot of variability in the ratios. (this is what signifcance testing is all about)

Test Score Growth (5, Interesting)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981821)

My wife is an excellent teacher who left a prestigious private school for gifted kids and went to a school in a very low socioeconomic area. Why? She said the kids at the gifted school "Just got it" and there was no challenge for her, professionally. Now the students can't spell their names the first day, but thanks to the hard work of a lot of very good teachers, they are average when they leave. Sure, test scores are lower than at the gifted school, but the kids have made a lot more progress.

Oh, her #1 advice to parents of her students: READ TO YOUR KIDS EVERY DAY!

Re:Test Score Growth (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982123)

Teachers such as your wife are a rare commodity. Those kids are lucky to have someone who still cares and isn't completely jaded on the state of the whole education system.

Re:Test Score Growth (1)

fwarren (579763) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982265)

From a parent who gets it. Tell your wife thank you.

Re:Test Score Growth (1)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982707)

Agreed. +1 Gratitude.

Re:Test Score Growth (1)

garthsundem (1702946) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982695)

Kudos to your wife. My wife spent a year as a grant-funded middle school literacy specialist in Novato, CA and got massacred -- she felt like she couldn't meet her students' needs in the classroom and now just finished her PhD in clinical psychology, thinking this might be a better in-road into the problem. Cheers.

All-day Kindergarten? (1)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981835)

I've been very happy with our schools. The teachers are excellent and the administration seems to really care.

A few friends have been looking at sending their kids to private school for the first few years because the private schools offer all-day kindergarten. Our school district doesn't provide it, and the parents are responsible for the noontime pickup / dropoff.

Cynical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38981841)

1. (Test Scores/Parent Education): How do scores outpace expectations? - My school district is so apathetic score wise that graduating knowing 1+1=2 is a reason to cheer. In fact, any outpacing of expectations is pure grade inflation and studying on how to pass tests than learning itself.

2. Test Score Growth: Any single score can be socioeconomics, but growth is due to the school. - And how do you conclusively prove this enough to do anything with all the spin? Take the current US Presidential election. During the Clinton years the budget got balanced and we have a surplus. Why?

Ask a Democrat: Clinton did it.
Ask a Republican (especially Newt): Republican controlled Congress did it. If you ask Newt, it was his leadership specifically that made it so.

Look at the Sesame Street effect. Designed to help educate poor children with the idea their parents couldn't supply the early home education the well off could. This lead to an early education gap that increased as the kids grew older. S.S. increased the education of these poor kids, but made the gap worse. The well off kids were also watching and due to whatever factor caused the initial gap were getting more out of it.

Education isn't just an open system, but a highly volatile open system with too many actors trying to control the chaos to easily control for this.

3 . (Teacher Salary*%Highly Qualified/Teacher Age): The best teachers will become highly qualified early, and will gravitate toward the best paying jobs." - I checked this out for my county. Best performing school? Third highest wages. Worst performing school, my district, highest wages by $10k on average. Of course I don't know the ages of said teachers.

I shopped around (5, Interesting)

davidannis (939047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981859)

and put my child in an inner city school because they have an immersion program for a foreign language. This gives him a chance to learn while his brain is still primed to acquire language. Sure, I pay a price - they sent him home once with pages xeroxed from a book because they didn't have enough money for books for all of the kids (with a note asking me not to let him color on the pages because they couldn't really afford copies either) but he is ahead of where either of his two older brothers were at the same age (in an affluent suburban district). There is more about my choice here: [] In general the education establishment pays little attention to what they know works. There is plenty of evidence that later starts for high school, teaching language earlier, abolishing DARE, and feeding kids healthy, less processed foods would help and be inexpensive. Unfortunately the schools are aught in culture wars and battles over union rights.

On the last one.... (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38981953)

Should that denominator be the average actual age of the teachers at the school? Or The average years of experience teaching?

Because not everyone starts teaching at the same age.... and heck, a person with more life experience that is only just starting out teaching may be entirely able to outpace younger people with more experience in the field. Not everybody holds the same career their entire life anymore. In fact, most don't.

Meaning (1)

slasho81 (455509) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982071)

Any metric is meaningless if the target criterion is meaningless. Everyone talks about school quality. Well, what defines quality? Schools that produce the most college graduates, better paid employees, non-criminals, Nobel laureates? What's the goal of schools in the first place?

New Parents Perhaps? (5, Insightful)

fwarren (579763) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982105)

Most kids need new parents. Or at least parents that care and take responsibility. Parents that read to their children, help them pick up the basics, teach good study habits and make sure their children do their homework, will have students who do well in any school.

If Johnny can not read, it is mom and dads job to teach Johnny or to find someone who can. For any parent who is literate, the fact that they can have a child hit middle school who cant read is a sign of laziness. You pay taxes so that your city will provide primary education for your child. However you cant just put a sandwich in a lunch bag and send them out the door every morning for 12 years and expect that someone who is paid to show up for 8 hours a day at a union job will do a better job at loving your child and teaching them than you will.

I have 3 adult children. I am a high school dropout. Most of their lives we lived at or near the poverty level. Two of my three kids manage to get scholarships that pay for 90% of all their college expenses. They were all students who received good grades. Sometimes it was a lot of work for us. If a kid has a different learning style than how a teacher teaches, it was up to us to turn the TV off and spend time with our offspring and help them to learn.

I have worked 10 hours, driven another hour home, and then sat down and helped one child with math and read to another child. Face it, teachers are like any other group. Only 10% of them graduated in the top 10% of their class. College only required them to be right 70% of the time. That is right. Your child may be taught by someone who gets 30% of the material wrong, and that is before they perform a poor job at communicating what they DO know.

Many private schools spend half as much as public schools do per student yet the children learn far better? Why is this? Maybe because someone who is taxed for public schools and then still ponies up money for a private insinuation cares enough about their child's education to be involved and make sure that the succeed no matter what.

if you care about your kids. it is YOUR job to make sure they know the things they need to know. Passing it off on someone else and then acting powerless when your child is in 3rd grade has problems and wringing your hands for the next 9 years that nothing can be done is a cop out.

Re:New Parents Perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982649)

You are so right on, but that would require people actually spending TIME with their kids and CARING. Also, trying to pin responsibility on the parents is not popular. One more thing I would add is that if your child hasn't learned good homework / study habits by the time they reach middle school it's too late.

To add to the article, the other thing we considered was culture / norms of the school and administration.

Re:New Parents Perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982703)

On the other side of the coin, if it's my job to teach my son to read and write, and mathematics, and science, and history/social studies, which has been the case in the last four years (he's in third grade), what is he learning at school? He's constantly complaining that he's bored at school and one of his math goals this year is the 10x10 multiplication table - which he can do in less than three minutes now because I had him doing them all summer.

Why am I sending him to school for the greater part of the healthiest portion of his life if he's learning everything he needs to learn at home?

What school you went to means nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982147)

You're all still fooling yourself thinking these things make a difference? School is about conditioning and beating any sense of individuality out of the person.
It's not what you knwo but WHO you know, always has been that way, and it doesn't look liek ti will ever change.
Where you go to school or how you do makes no difference, want the best example of all? GWB
Man was a less than average student and became president, all onmerit of course. And don't start with Obama, everyone at the top has someone underneath with all the money holding them up.

Peer students/Peer families (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982149)

Teachers and schools get most of the blame for our problems, but from my observation (2nd grader and 4th grader) it begins at home. Things you can control are encouraging work ("Your hard work paid off" instead of "You did well because you are smart") and picking a school with parents that are academically minded.

When we were picking between neighboring public grade schools before buying a house we met the principals and got tours of the schools. The teachers were nice and accommodating; the principals seemed organized and open to questions. Then my wife went to the "new student" parent night of each school. At one school the parents asked about lunch, recess, and generally the schedule. At the other the parents asked about curriculum and the moms were quoting sources like the society for women engineers.

From our experience (1)

xxdelxx (551872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982167)

Having moved between continents and school districts within them, look for an area with educated and involved parents. Check out the PTA (or whatever the local equivalent is), what fundraising activities are going on to support extra-curricular activities, how willing are the school staff (principle / headmaster) to discuss the integration of your kids into the local system.

If the parents truly support, and are involved with, the schools then the incidence of problems seems to be far less (yeah, I know it never goes away completely) and more time is spent actually educating the kids. This attracts good teachers. With extra fundraising and parental support those good teachers can think of ways to make the syllabus (which is designed to generally turn out good little proles who will blindly consume and obey) into something a lot more interesting. This makes the kids more interested in their education. It's a virtuous circle.

Of course - this does mean finding somewhere where the local populace treat the schools as something more than state provided child care.

This may mean changing jobs, paying more in mortgage/rent, actually spending time with your kids etc etc. We thought it was worth it. YMMV.

It's about the degrees (1)

jtara (133429) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982275)

My brother and sister are both retired teachers (I am not).

While I beleive and hope that both of my siblings were "good teachers", both reached to top of their system's payscales by obtaining multiple advanced degrees - up to but not to exceed the number that will maximize pay - as early as possible. (Which affects total compensation including retirement.) My sister has 3 masters, brother has two masters and a PhD.

I have no idea whether or not that translates to "highly qualified". It does translate into "smart enough to know how the system works."

What about the Unions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982317)

Sooner or later high performing teachers will move to private or better funded districts because unions oppose merit based pay. With enrolling my first child soon, I'm looking at houses at one of the wealthy suburbs around my city where they have their own independent school district.


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982347)

Honestly, if you really care about *your* kids' education, just look at the FARMs (Free and Reduced Meals) rate. Sure, it's just a reflection of the socioeconomic makeup of the school, but you'll find that it also correlates to parent involvement and overall achievement. It's sad but true. My kids have been in a school where half the school is about 45% FARMs and the other half (where they are) is a special program with about 5% FARMs. The gap is really staggering, and you can spot the differences in behavior even in the hallway. Now that my older daughter is taking more classes with the "general population" she's sometimes amazed - she told me the other day "some of the kids in my class never read!"

The kids in the special program have parents who are involved and supportive, and they are generally well behaved and doing well academically. They are the kids whose parents were reading to them every night before they got to kindergarten, and they are the ones checking with the teachers to make sure everything is going well and getting extra help if it's not. I wish that it weren't the case, but I am ready to move to a smaller home in a better school catchment area for high school. I don't care how much you spend, if you don't have parents backing you up at home you're not going to get the results.

This shouldn't be taken, btw, as saying that we shouldn't try to improve education across the board. Just that in real life, if you want your kid to get the best education possible, you want them surrounded with other kids whose parents are willing and able to support them.

Where's the science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982357)

Is there any science behind any of this, or is he just making these numbers up because they seem like interesting numbers?

Has anybody seen any real data to support these measures of quality?

For example, he uses percentage of parents with a graduate-level education as a metric of parental support for child learning. Is there any correlation there at all? Or is it just supposed to be an indicator of socio-economic status?

Props for trying, but this seems like a lot of handwaving to me.

It's a joke (1)

Tomster (5075) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982371)

I live in one of the best school districts in the nation, in an affluent suburb. The five years of schooling my child has had so far could easily have been condensed into 2 years. Repetition (which I realize is needed to some extent for memorization and skill to develop) and preparation for standardized tests takes up most of the time. Add in the fact that standards for passing are ridiculously low. Add in the political correctness (don't get me started on the focus on "environmentalism" and being "eco-friendly"). I can only imagine what it would be like if we lived in an "average" area.

I'm tired of this crap. I'll be supplementing my child's public school education starting this summer. My hope is for him to be able to graduate high school as a sophomore. If you think that's unreasonable or that I'm a slave driver, you haven't paid much attention to how easy school is. And my child is one of the smart ones.

Final note -- I have nothing but praise for teachers and others in school who do their best to encourage, motivate and teach their students while putting up with the bureaucracy and system that straitjackets them.

"preparation for standardized tests" (1)

Zondar (32904) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982509)

This is the part that gets me. I took the California Achievement Test when I was in elementary and (some of) high school, and not once do I remember the teachers teaching us the material on the test. They went through their regular curriculum during the year, and we were given a 2-3 day overview on how to fill in our boxes, how to spend our time on the test,

These days, teachers will spend up to 6 weeks (or more) actually teaching the material on the standardized test. Wait, what?!? If you aren't teaching the material that's on the test *all year*, then something is seriously wrong. What are you teaching that isn't on the test, and why isn't the test testing the students on that material?

Dollars spent per student matters - some - but isn't the end-all-be-all of measurements. Standardized tests are broken from both ends (they don't measure what is being taught, the teachers are forced to game the system by teaching *to* the test, and the material being taught is suspect if it doesn't match the test). Honestly, I'd like to see a study of school districts measuring this:

$ spent on administration vs $ spent on students directly

Nuns (3, Interesting)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982495)

I expect that the very best education comes from nuns. I found that Catholic school prepared me for the real world far better than my public school counterparts. Catholic school students learned more and were better at applying their learning to real world situations.

If it weren't for the anti-Catholic bias in America society (a bias that rivals that of African Americans: and I can easy prove it. 40% of American is Catholic, but we've had only 1 Catholic President, whereas 13% of America is African American, and we've had only 1 African American President), Catholic students would be ruling the country.

Anti-male bias too (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982891)

If it weren't for the anti-Catholic bias in America society (a bias that rivals that of African Americans: and I can easy prove it. 40% of American is Catholic, but we've had only 1 Catholic President, whereas 13% of America is African American, and we've had only 1 African American President), Catholic students would be ruling the country.

Only 52% of Americans are women, and we already got Hilllary!

Gifted Kids Get Short Changed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982513)

My daughter is in 1st grade in a public school in Texas. I'm extremely disappointed with what I see. When public schools focus on standardized testing, they tend to teach towards the lowest common denominator. My daughter's school is very focused on achieving a school wide exemplary rating by having every minority student pass state defined standardized tests. In a school with a lot of non-native English speakers, this equates to a lot of remedial work. The bulk of the time is spent on the students who are going to fail the tests and the goal is to raise everyone up to a very low bar.

As a parent of a highly gifted student, this makes me furious. Budget constraints have killed all gifted programs. I would go so far as say this situation is downright unpatriotic. Gifted kids, our nation’s future leaders, inventors, and decision makers are being short changed. I can afford to send my daughter to a private school for gifted kids, but a gifted child of low income parents has a high likelihood of being screwed.

careful on the "best paying" part (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982581)

some will look at that as an easy way to raise test scores. Just pay the teachers more and automatically everything will improve.

Sadly you need to have standards WITH the pay. And as we've seen from the rubber rooms it's almost impossible to fire child molesters that are teachers. So getting rid of teachers that simply aren't good at their jobs is going to be entirely impossible.

What we need are standards for teachers. We need to hold teachers to some kind of standard and then be very comfortable with adjusting their pay based upon their performance and/or firing them if it's unacceptable.

that's the bare minimum. if we can't do that much then we should just try and invoke an across the board voucher system.

Become friends with teachers in next school level (4, Interesting)

hierofalcon (1233282) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982667)

If you want to know where to send your kids to elementary school, get to know some junior high or middle school teachers and find out which elementary students are best prepared for junior high or middle school. You can do the same thing at high school if you need but the choice of the middle grades is less important than elementary. Obviously, you need to know the teacher making the comments, but the teachers I know will give you an honest opinion if you ask. You may have to cut through some bureaucratic double speak.

Obviously this really doesn't matter if you don't have open enrollment. If you don't, then you have to decide where to live first as that will determine everything else.

This isn't a guarantee. The teacher that was doing a great job might leave or retire. Several might get fed up with the administration and leave. Great new teachers might transfer in somewhere else. But it will give a general overview as a starting point.

One of our elementary schools decided to try a radical new approach to teaching. Everything would be electronic. No books. The kids hated it. The school system is still trying to give it a chance - bureaucracy and institutional inertia being what it is. Few enroll there since it isn't working and they can't understand why.

All parents should be involved in their kid's education and should pick up the slack teaching concepts the kids aren't getting at school. Having said that, I'm a firm believer that home schooling is the wrong approach for 90% of the kids and parents who try it. It gets worse the more kids you have and the higher the grade level you try to teach.

My wife and I have four degrees between us, but you can't be an expert in enough things to teach them all subjects well. Trying to teach multiple kids at the same time holds the older kids back (but may help the young ones). Worst, if you can't actually teach or one of your kids just doesn't connect with you as a teacher, they are doomed. At least a bad public school teacher is just for one course or one year at the most. If they're all bad, find a way to go private or move someplace where the schools are good.

My last pieces of advice - make sure to get your children's eyesight tested if there is any doubt. Make sure their eyes track properly (take a pencil and slowly move it towards their nose and then from side to side a few times watching their eyes to make sure they track smoothly). Make sure they hear. Make sure they attend school. Check on their performance and keep them working. Help them to develop a love of books and reading - it will do them a world of good in school and in life as well. Get your noses out of your cell phones and video games yourselves and demonstrate good traits yourself to your kids.

Get them out of there! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982739)

If at all possible, get them away from our terrible 'educational' system and homeschool them (which does not mean they'll never converse with other humans, despite what ignorant people may say).

If you can't, then I pity both you and your children.

third one not entirely true (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982755)

I'll tell you why. Those who are "highly qualified", young, and in higher paying positions, don't have the experience to make them effective.

Teaching is not just a job, it's a talent. You're either effective or not. It can't be taught, and seemingly isn't for those with an education degree.

My wife came to teaching as a second career. She is "highly qualified" as per school district requirements through training and continuing education. One reason why she's so effective is she had no pre-conceived notions about teaching before being hired. She found what was effective and stuck to it.

It's less of a skill and more of a talent, especially with primary grades.

completely agree with the first two though.

Test score growth: don't trust it (3, Interesting)

Mr. Theorem (33952) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982787)

I realize TFA is more like the author's off-the-cuff musings and less like a rigorous study, but it does recommend looking at test score growth, and in the process fails to mention something that's both nearly obvious but almost always overlooked when discussing test score growth. When test scores grow, one is by definition comparing the scores that one group of students took on one test to the scores that another group of students got on a different test. With that in mind, there are 5 principal ways that test scores can "go up":

1. students cheat on the second test
2. the second test is easier
3. students who score low on the first test don't take the second test
4. students, who score high on the second test, were added to the testing group but did not take the first test
5. more individual students score better on the second test than perform worse on the second test

Cheating does happen, but it's probably rare. Tests can be psychologically validated to ensure constant difficulty, but this isn't done as often as it should. Nevertheless, #3 is by far the most common and least talked about way for test scores (particularly relative test scores) to improve. TFA recommends looking at the relative standing of a schools 2nd graders and 5th or 6th graders. We'd like to think that the students are being educated so successfully that their performance improves, but anyone making such a claim ought to be required to (rigorously and mathematically) prove that changes in the student population are not the primary cause. There is pretty good evidence [] , for example, that the high-profile improvement in the charter school that Michelle Rhee worked at was rather effective at "counseling out" the consistently low scoring students to have apparent test score gains that had little to do with their instructional program. I can well imagine the administrative staff of a school "working with" the parents to help find a school that's "a better match" to their kid's "unique learning style."

Percentage of Free and Reduced (4, Interesting)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982863)

The one number that gives you a quick read on an elementary school is the percentage of students who qualify for free or reduced cost school meals. This number is readily available. While this is a socio-economic index, it is reliably inversely proportional to the amount of parental involvement you can expect to find in the school population; and parental involvement is one of the most important factors in elementary education. (Yes, my family is full of educators.) While there are obviously going to be exceptions to this, it is a good, quick measure of the school. If you have a choice of one school with 25% free and reduced and one with 85% free and reduced, pick the former. Far more of its kids will be going to college. Far fewer will have parents strung out on methamphetamine or what have you. Far fewer will have serious behavioral issues that disrupt education for everyone.

unexpected? (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982877)

I don't think people realize what those metrics are.

the first is parent education. so you're saying that schools with smart parents have smart students. so you're saying I should select a school based on how others have already selelcted a school.

the second is growing scores. so you're saying improvement is good to see.

the third is teacher attraction. so you're saying that schools that were selected by good teachers are good.

basing my selection simply by following others who have already selected it doesn't help. that's a short term promise that reaches a useless equilibrium. if dumb parents choose a school that has smart parents, it will soon have dumb parents. if bad teachers choose a school because it has good teachers, it will soon have bad teachers.

and test scores can't forever be going up.

Newsflash: Young, Qualified Talent is Good (1)

eepok (545733) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982885)

"The best teachers will become highly qualified early, and will gravitate toward the best paying jobs."

No kidding? The best education will come from teachers who have a passion to dedicate the cost of a modern 4-year education, master's degree, credentialing, and entry-level experience while they're still young? Wow, that's great to know! Now here's the problem: How do teachers pay for all of that while still safely assuming that there will be a sufficient paycheck on the other side of all the hurdles.

This author of this article may not have noticed, but the economic crash for education has not yet ended. Faculty numbers are still being cut, early retirement is still being suggested, and schools (real schools, not those in Palo Alto and La Jolla) are still looking for the cheapest possible teacher. That teacher likely has very high qualifications because s/he got hired amongst a bunch of under-employed educators, so after 2 or 3 years, that highly qualified teacher will be leaving the scum-hole school that him him/her a job and move on to the higher paying jobs teaching students who aren't in as severe need of dedicated teachers.

Schools refer to this as Overqualified Turnover, Brain Drain, and Talent Sapping... and, believe it or not, it's a disincentive for regular schools to actually put the time and effort into hiring a very good teacher. Many would prefer to have an "OK" teacher that would stick around and have personal investment in their school over a great teacher that is just stopping by for a resume filler.

Your child and everyone's child is better off not flooding to one or a few "best schools" but taking the stand to require adequate public school funding for all schools.

Let ignore the normal distribution. (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38982903)

The problem is Schools/Governments really ignore the normal distribution of students. The average Grade for the students should be a C or a 75% mastery in taught information. However school systems make the C grade considered the Underachiever Passing grade. While what should really be happening Most of the students have D-B Grades, and only a much smaller few would have Fs and As

When judging your school systems Large amount of As or Fs means trouble.

To many As means your course work is too easy for the students. To many Fs means the students it is too difficult. But if you find that the normal grades fit in the Normal Distribution Curve then that means you will relativity on par.

Collages need to start thinking like that when they do acceptances So the Harvard out there who get the best of the best will find where they were use to getting the A student that after the adjustment that they will be more use to getting the A- or B+ student. And the colleges that are not so selective will need to realize that a C- student may still be collage worthy.

The Elephant in the Room (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38982963)

A school with a lot of blacks and/or Mexicans is an educational wasteland, regardless of how inspiring "Stand and Deliver" was.

is it worth criticizing (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 2 years ago | (#38983019)

At first, I thought I'd say something smart about how "good" predictors change over time as people learn to game the system then I read the original piece; is there any serious there there ? Is slashdot really posting random musings based on sample sizes of ~ 1 as something worth thinking about ? maybe thats why I find myself spending less time on /. then I used to

I've seen it work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38983043)

My Ex's family was home schooled. Five children. They aren't religious and lived in the country. Aside from some slight quirkiness, it worked well. The oldest is runs various hospitals. The next is a veterinarian. The third is a doctor. The fourth is about to graduate with a chemical engineering degree, and the fifth is in school to be a nurse.

What it comes down to is good parents who aren't socially crippled themselves.

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