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What Works In Education: Scientific Evidence Gets Ignored

timothy posted 1 year,27 days | from the pretty-obvious-isn't-it? dept.

Education 440

nbauman writes "According to Gina Kolata in the New York Times, The Institute of Education Sciences in the Department of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, has supported 175 randomized controlled studies, like the studies used in medicine, to find out what works and doesn't work, which are reported in the What Works Clearinghouse. Surprisingly, the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as much as teachers; poor materials have as much effect as a bad teacher, and good materials can offset a bad teacher's deficiencies. One popular math textbook was superior to 3 competitors. A popular computer-assisted math program had no benefit. Most educators, including principals and superintendents, don't know the data exists. 42% of school districts had never heard of the clearinghouse. Up to 90% of programs that seemed promising in small studies had no effect or made achievement scores worse. For example a program to increase 7th-grade math teachers' understanding of math increased their understanding but had no effect on student achievement. Upward Bound had no effect."

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Creation (1, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746427)

Educators in some parts of the country are too busy trying to get "Creation Science" into real science textbooks. They don't have time to figure out what is actually best for the students! []

Re:Creation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746653)

Or things like Global Warming that has NO scientific fact, just like Creation Science right? You do know more evidence supports the Bible than evolution? Or will you ignore the real science? SD is a bunch of mental wankers and hipsters.

Re:Creation (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746925)

You do know more evidence supports the Bible than evolution? Or will you ignore the real science? SD is a bunch of mental wankers and hipsters.

Your education system is just reflecting the over all quality of your country. You live in a shit hole filled with ignorant morons who can spout out comments like the one i'm replying to and truly believe it, good job america glad i'm over here where shit makes sense and people are still smaller than cattle on average

Re:Creation (4, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746933)

If you mean climate control then there are overwhelming boatloads of scientific evidence if you look for it. Years of data compiled and analyzed.

And what do you mean "supports the Bible"? I mean the bible doesn't even support itself with all the endless contradictions. There is no science in that. Not sure what SD is.

Re:Creation (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746679)

It's been my experience that the vast majority of textbooks are chosen by how much money the textbook company is willing to donate to whomever gets to choose the textbooks, not by their inclusion or exclusion of any particular political position.

Re:Creation (4, Insightful)

RazzleFrog (537054) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746975)

The problem in Texas is that they ARE trying to influence the textbook companies and since they are one of the largest purchasers of textbooks they actually could potentially have some success. Except for the whole separation of church and state thing that keeps kicking their ass in court.

Re:Creation (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747105)

I recall teachers in school occasionally getting new textbooks to evaluate, some of which had publication dates in the future (I guess they were pre-release copies). Only a select few would give the books to students to evaluate or teach a lesson or two out of them during their evaluation. Otherwise I think selection was done solely by teacher opinion.

Re:Creation (2)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746771)

Those are not Educators, they are terrorists.

No shocker there (5, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746459)

I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics. They'll show one example, fail miserably to explain what they did in any clear way, then later they will refer back to it as what they did in example 3. And the student is expected to be able to figure out what they did. Sure, given sufficient time, a student could reverse engineer the problem, but it's also trendy for teachers to hand out way too many problems as homework, without permitting the students time to understand.

I remember when I was in middle school and high school, the schools were using "integrated math." Which is to say we didn't have algebra, geometry or trig, we had all of them at once and we would start over again the next year. The problem is that just as we were beginning to grasp one of them, we'd move onto the next subject, and the next year, we'd have to start over as we hadn't mastered the material the last time we saw it.

Re:No shocker there (3, Interesting)

Cid Highwind (9258) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746555)

I remember when I was in middle school and high school, the schools were using "integrated math." Which is to say we didn't have algebra, geometry or trig, we had all of them at once and we would start over again the next year.

It's even better when you have to move to a different school district halfway through that program. Having half of a geometry or trig course under your belt is not going to make being dropped into the middle of advanced algebra suck any less.

Re:No shocker there (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746625)

Might be a matter of execution rather than concept. Integrated math worked perfectly fine at my school.

Re:No shocker there (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746823)

I've yet to see a competently written math book. Most of them are written by and for people with PhDs in mathematics.

Sounds about right - as a programmer, I've always been appalled by how math is taught. If we taught programming the way we taught math, every program would be unmaintainable. Think about it:

- One letter identifiers for everything. Algebra teaches you to always use x, y, z for variable names. Calculus teaches you to do it for function names. If you run out of those, use greek letters, or just start making up symbols.
- Everything is named after who discovered it, not what it does. Pythagoras's theorem, Newton's method, L'hopital's theorem, Cartesian co-ordinates, Euler's number...
- Formulas are always crammed into a single line, without being spaced out. And without any in-line comments. You're forced to try and understand the entire formula in one shot, rather than piece by piece.

MatLab is a perfect example of why mathematicians shouldn't program. You can look at the source to certain functions (like calculating Euler's number) to see this in action.

Re:No shocker there (2)

JWW (79176) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746911)

My son's pre-calculus book was exactly like this.

Also, when he was studying for his final, I explained a concept that was key to the course to him and he finally got what the concept was about and how to use it and visualize it. The teacher had never discussed it in that manner and had basically just dropped it on the kids to figure out themselves. I was kicking myself for not discussing it in detail earlier, but I had assumed that the teacher would present the concept in a logical, clear and concise manner. I was wrong.

Re:No shocker there (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747161)

Obligatory XKCD: []
For those not sure why this is appropriate: the hypothetical teacher explains the rule, but not how to apply the rule or what use it is. We have all had professors like this. It is why teaching is a whole separate skill from the trade itself.

D.A.R.E has no benefit (2, Informative)

hduff (570443) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746461)

Studies prove it, yet it continues to be funded with scarce dollars.

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (4, Insightful)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746565)

"Scarce dollars"? There has been literally trillions of dollars poured into public education over the past 50 years, An absolutely insane amount of money is still being spent - but the quality continues to decline. Anyone who cares about education needs to get this through their head - *money does not solve this problem*. The issue is lack of standards, lack of quality teachers, and endless ivory-tower meddling in the educational process. None of those are solved by money.

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (4, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746667)

"Scarce dollars"? There has been literally trillions of dollars poured into public education over the past 50 years, An absolutely insane amount of money is still being spent - but the quality continues to decline. Anyone who cares about education needs to get this through their head - *money does not solve this problem*. The issue is lack of standards, lack of quality teachers, and endless ivory-tower meddling in the educational process. None of those are solved by money.

Yes, scarce, but that's rather beside the point of TFA. So are "quality teachers" and 'ivory-tower meddling" (whatever the fuck that is). TFA seems to make a case for spending more wisely, like buying teaching materials that actually work, or more fundamentally, becoming aware that the data to guide such purchases even exists. Such lack of awareness is inexcusable, but clearly, it is pervasive. How's about we work on that problem instead of parroting the same tired shit you hear on Faux News?

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (1)

GreyWanderingRogue (598058) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746677)

The issue is lack of standards, lack of quality teachers, and endless ivory-tower meddling in the educational process. None of those are solved by money.

The middle one can certainly be improved with money, though it might be very expensive.

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (5, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747149)


There was a study about 10 years ago that showed zero correlation between teacher pay, teacher effectiveness, and academic results between states.

Probably what is more important is teacher requirement, training, and management. If you increased teacher pay today without changing the above you would increasing pay to those who are already teachers or are likely to become teachers.

I have issues with how teacher’s pay is structured. The initial pay is low and most of the benefits are at the backend so it encourages marginal teachers to become entrenched and discourages middle aged people from making a career switch into the profession. (I think there is a rich vein of potential people who hold masters in math, science, or engineering who would make great teachers but don’t want to deal with the initial low pay and would not qualify for some of the bigger retirement packages.)

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (-1, Troll)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746855)

""Scarce dollars"? There has been literally trillions of dollars poured into public education over the past 50 years"

and all of it dumped into useless stuff like the Music, Arts, Sports programs and the Physical Education Programs. I don't see well stocked science labs with equipment that is from this century. Math and Science are all the red headed step children. Almost as bad as the Computer Science programs that are just "learning to type and mouse 050"

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (1)

MayonakaHa (562348) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747061)

Cut that back to Sports and Phys Ed and that's closer to what my school district was. The music and arts programs funded themselves with fund raisers, concessions sales at sports events and other means. Hell in the music program we almost consistently made it to State UIL competition but the boosters were the ones who made the money we needed for more than the absolute basics.

Scarce dollars? Let me check that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746869)

*Looks in wallet* Yep, Scarce dollars.

Re:D.A.R.E has no benefit (3, Insightful)

Baron von Daren (1253850) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747077)

I don’t want to get into a huge tangent on this topic, but rest assured there are plenty of school districts in the US that don’t have enough money. While I agree that throwing money at these districts indiscriminately won’t solve anything, it’s pretty hard to build a quality educational systems without sufficient funding. This is especially true in districts where the educational system has to contend children who have difficult home lives and parents who are themselves undereducated. Money certainly can't solve the problem, but it is a significant part of the equation.

We live in a society where those who sell children toys make exponentially more than the people who educate children. That a very simplistic statement, but it touches on the matter of our shared social value system. This gets into a lot of issues concerning market based vs universal public education, but, again, that’s a tangent. The major point is simply that when we move beyond lip-service and rhetoric, education isn’t a core value for our society.

Teacher do not know Mathematics. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746465)

The problem is most education professionals are not so good at understanding Math, and many really do not trust is.

You go to any college and talk to education majors, and ask them why they didn't major in other majors, after they repeat the normal BS, about wanting to help children yadda yadda, It comes down to the fact that many of the other majors that has a clear career path requires much more Math study, and they don't like Math.

Sure we have a few educators like Math and Science teachers who get it, but they are the minority, and the ones who seems to get promoted to positions where they can make decisions, are usually History and English teachers. So they don't know about this research is because they are not looking for it, and they really don't want to find it, because the numbers may contradict what you opinion is, and no one likes that.

We have the State and Unions fighting over these details and little focus on what works.

Re:Teacher do not know Mathematics. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746655)

Sure we have a few educators like Math and Science teachers who get it, but they are the minority, and the ones who seems to get promoted to positions where they can make decisions, are usually History and English teachers.

If the math-competent teachers got into positions of power, they'd start looking at the results of the other teachers' methods and try to manipulate it to an ideal. If the science-competent teachers got into positions of power, they'd challenge the claims of the other teachers and require control groups. However when the history teachers are in charge, they simply accept that whatever went wrong is in the past now, and suggest that people learn from it (but never bother to say what should be learned), and the English teachers in charge just spend their time reading.

Why would technically brilliant want to teach? (2)

walterbyrd (182728) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746699)

If you are smart enough to master master, and real science, then couldn't you earn about 3X as much as a teacher?

Re:Why would technically brilliant want to teach? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747137)

Because being a teacher is rewarding.

You also get an almost 2 month vacation, all the holidays.
In some jurisdictions the pay and benefits are excellent, plus being government work your employer generally doesn't go bankrupt.
If you're in a union you don't even have a real risk of getting fired.

Re:Teacher do not know Mathematics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746865)

All through school (elementary and high-school) our teachers didn't teach us the reasons behind what we were doing. We were taught to memorize the steps and that's all there was to it. That's why once I entered college I sucked horribly at algebra because I didn't have a proper understanding about fractions, numbers in general, and well practically all of high-school algebra. I passed with flying colors in school but college proved that if you don't properly understand what you're doing, you're going to have a bad time. Since then, I learned math properly and became a software engineer. F-yeah!

Re:Teacher do not know Mathematics. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746991)

I'd say that's only true if you go to a good college. Unfortunately, there are colleges that are basically glorified high schools...

Re:Teacher do not know Mathematics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747079)

It is ironic that you "know" what the problem is, and at the same time are commenting on an article which has the quote:
"“If you talk to your seatmate on an airplane,” he continued, “100 times out of 100 they will not have heard of it. Invariably they will have loads of opinions about what schools should or shouldn’t do, and they are utterly unaware and uninterested in the idea that there is actual evidence.” "

The article does not directly address your claim about what the problem is, except the following paragraph, indicating(but not proving) that you are actually wrong:
"For example, Michael Garet, the vice president of the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social science research group, led a study that instructed seventh-grade math teachers in a summer institute, helping them understand the math they teach — like why, when dividing fractions, do you invert and multiply?

The teachers’ knowledge of math improved, but student achievement did not. "

Up Next (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746479)

Issuing iPads to everyone has no positive effect on learning.

Followed by; educators just can't learn that issuing iPads to everyone has no positive effect on learning.

Who would have guessed?

Re:Up Next (1)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746697)

No, but it does have a very positive effect on how much the school receives in state/federal grant money and donations from Apple.

Focusing on the wrong things. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746483)

I loathe how progress is measured using standardized test scores; these are the very same tests that test only for rote memorization and pattern recognition, so why do the scores matter so much? Even if it is shown that certain methods increase test scores, it is almost completely meaningless because these tests are so useless in measuring actual understanding. Frankly, I find the notion that you can hand out one-size-fits-all standardized tests to everyone and quantify people's understanding of the material to be utterly absurd, and frankly, harmful.

for math? (2)

Comboman (895500) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746733)

I might agree with you for virtually every other subject, but math is about the only thing that can be measured accurately using standardized testing. 3 X 3 = 9, whether you memorized the times tables or counted it out on your fingers. No matter what method you were taught, you should get the same answer. There are no cultural biases to deal with and even difficulty with understanding English shouldn't affect the outcome.

Re:for math? (0)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746871)

All that does is test for memorization and the ability to correctly memorize patterns, not understanding; that's largely why people criticize these tests. Not everyone thinks that getting the right answer is all that is important.

Re:Focusing on the wrong things. (1)

polgair (922265) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746843)

Because a large part of professional success comes from recognizing an encountered problem is similar to a previously problem, and one only has to change a few things to apply known methods to the 'new' problem. You need rote memorization to remember previous problems and their associated methods, you need pattern recognition to see that different problems may actually have a similar structure.

Frankly, testing everyone the same way, based on a standard syllabus on how material ought to be taught, limits a) the scope of the inquiry and b) the variance of the starting conditions of the student. The tests only measure the ability of students to solve problems, where the methods to arrive at proper solutions are what is taught in the course. There are only so many ways to write a calculus one, two, three test, and this is freshmen and sophomore college mathematics for engineers. A cursory examination of finals of the last 15 years by of those classes listed from the different department consists of similarly worded problems and types of questions. I can buy a 30 year old schaums that gives me practice problems that will prepare me well for a final in those classes. And quite quickly, one can look at the answers a student has submitted and know if the student has a clue of what is going on.

And before you argue that Algebra 1/2 are different courses than a college calculus course, do realize that the scope of the inquiry within high school classes are much more limited.

The scope of the material hasn't changed much over the years, the problems of testing the students haven't changed much either, why the resistance of standardized tests? It works well enough.

Re:Focusing on the wrong things. (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746943)

Because a large part of professional success

Not everything is about jobs or getting the right answer.

and one only has to change a few things to apply known methods to the 'new' problem.

A grand majority of students produced by the education system will emerge from it and will not have any sort of understanding of any of the material, which is, I think, a problem. As you say, they might be able to get the right answers (but only for a short time, because it's likely that they'll forget all the patterns and facts they memorized), but doing anything innovative will be beyond most of them because they have no grasp on the logic behind any of it.

You need rote memorization to remember previous problems and their associated methods, you need pattern recognition to see that different problems may actually have a similar structure.

The ability to memorize facts and recognize patterns is useful (although, in many cases, memorizing facts seems to be useless), but I don't think those skills are even nearly as important as understanding the material. Besides, I've found that if you have a good understanding of the logic behind what you're working with, you'll be able to retain facts about it in memory more easily simply because it becomes more memorable.

why the resistance of standardized tests? It works well enough.

Because it doesn't work, for exactly the reasons mentioned. If your goal is to create an educated populace, relying so heavily on such tests probably isn't a very good idea.

Sych evidence is bound to be ignored... (1)

FunkyLich (2533348) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746503)

... from the very moment that a parent will give a phone or a pad or anything of that sort to a very young kid, convinced that interacting with it will help the kid to develop the brain in a way that will help him/her during life. VERY FEW are aware that such early interaction does exactly the opposite to the brain: since a vry early stage it deeply plants reflexes of the form "solution to problem is ready. Click click click found!".

Re:Sych evidence is bound to be ignored... (2)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746879)

Yeah and TV rots your brain.

Coma on back when you have real scientific information to back up your wild statement.

Rule of thumb (1)

dslmodem (733085) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746511)

For elementary level education, it is a SIN to have any curriculum that only super/excellent/great teachers can teach kids well. My observation as a PTA board member now is that poorly a designed curriculum package make both teachers and students suffer.

Re:Rule of thumb (2)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746707)

I would think that well written text books and effective materials would make it easier for mediocre faculty to teach. That would (IMO) be a part of their score.

Materials to benefit whom? (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746531)

I'm convinced that a lot of curriculum is written to satisfy bullet-points, not to benefit students or to help teachers benefit students. Unfortunately, while the bullets themselves are often good goals, they often come at the expense of what makes them actually come together into something useful.

Might as well build an engine with great specifications by the numbers and the finest quality control on the parts, but leave out all the wires and housings because the spec sheet didn't list them specifically.

That's where a lot of standardized tests used by the education department tend to lead as well.

Who is surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746535)

Is anybody actually surprised that scientific evidence in the US gets ignored in favor of what people want to believe?

For a first world nation, I've never seen a country so insistent on ignoring science -- in America "because that is what I believe" often trumps "because this is what science tells us".

A nation of luddites, and often your leaders are the ones who are blatantly ignoring science.

Well duh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746537)

This is why our education system is so sad. Its major influence is politics.

And when was the last time politics produced something good?

policy from the top (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746541)

Why is this information not being pushed down from the top? The government funds education, the government should be very interested in what works and what does not in order to get value for money.

a) sposor studies on what works
b) publish studies and make sure knowledge reaches the bottom levels where funds are spent
c) create open text books and open class studies

Re:policy from the top (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746643)

Why is this information not being pushed down from the top? The government funds education, the government should be very interested in what works and what does not in order to get value for money.

Because increasingly the US does stuff based on ideology, and not fact.

How else do you explain all of those jurisdictions trying to get Creationism taught as valid science? That there is no valid 'science' in there is apparently irrelevant.

When your leaders are guilty of ignoring science in favor of what they believe, that flows downhill to the rest of it.

And the rest of the world is just shaking their heads. When more and more of your leaders are somewhat irrational Christians with no regard for science, this is what you get.

Re:policy from the top (-1)

RobertLTux (260313) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746953)

Okay Im going to say FLAG ON PLAY.

First off once you get past the Ignorant Whackadoodles there is a great deal of Science in Creationism (hint if your preacher can reference the Greek/Hebrew then you can start dealing with Science).

the first couple PicoSeconds of TIME is beyond Science and must be dealt with in Logic.

Now as to the subject you need either or both of a Good Teacher or Good Materials to run a decent School if you have both you are Golden if you have just one the other must be better enough to correct things. What the problem is we have NEITHER way to many times.

The biggest problem of the Public Education System is a refusal to Educate the Public In a Systematic way.

Re:policy from the top (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747071)

First off once you get past the Ignorant Whackadoodles there is a great deal of Science in Creationism

And what 'science' would that be? List specific examples of what passes the threshold for science, or we'll have to assume you're someone who wants to believe but has no facts to support your argument.

There is no actual science behind Creationism other than wishful thinking. Anybody who is saying other wise is full of shit, because there's not a single objective, falsifiable hypothesis thing about it. Just "ZOMG, this is so complex god must have made it".

There's only "we believe this, so it must be true" and trying to use the language of science to make it sounds valid, but it isn't.

Short of "we can't say what happened before the big bang", nothing that comes after it is science. Science can't say there is no god, but religion can't say anything about science either.

Creationism isn't science, and it never will be.

I haz teh solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746551)

Textbooks made in Texas!11!!1111!!!!11!!


This is sad (4, Insightful)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746563)

Again for the Nth time I'm going to fall back on my personal education experience.

I had horrible teachers growing up, when I say horrible, all but one of them was even worth her paycheck . An elementary school teacher should be an expert in all areas that they teach.

In my elementary school ( 1992 - 2000 ) we had one teacher for the entire day, that teacher did math, history, english and etc.... For the school system to effectively work what you need is for that teacher to be an expert in all of those subjects, an expert to the point that they don't require a textbook. The textbook is for the students to assist and supplement the information from the teacher, NOT for the teacher to use as a coverup for not knowing the subject.

So often we as students were told to close the textbooks and just understand the material well a lazy teacher sat at the front of the room and simply just read from it. A big secret to good education is that the teacher should never be doing the students job, reading from a textbook simple means that the teacher is only as qualified as the student and not really doing his / her job.

This post talks about the materials that the students can use to assist in there education. Well in my school we had the resources but the teachers and support staff just weren't trained on how to deploy and use the materials. The computer lab was off limits because ALL of the teachers had no clue how to really use them, the science lab was closed because the teachers and staff didn't know how to setup or use the equipment.

This is my problem with the school system, it's setup to protect the teachers and it leaves the students on the side of the road. I pointed this out in my school several times when I was there and every time I was given an excuse, "The teachers work very hard and it's not there job" or "The government wants us to teach this way so we are". It's sad and horrible, the school system ( in Canada ) is in the shitter. I have little cousins right now and from what they tell me the system hasn't changed.

So what's my point? Well here is the big secret to making the education system work, HIRE QUALIFIED TEACHERS AND GET THE RIGHT MATERIAL IN PLACE!!!!!! That's it, it hasn't happened yet at least from what I've seen and been through. Simple answer to a not complicated question.

To any teacher that doesn't fit into what I just explained I don't want to bash you. I know good teachers and good school exist, they do and they are great, just the majority of the system is broke and that shouldn't make the good few look bad.

Re:This is sad (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746675)

You don't need a PhD in math to teach 10th grade geometry. I'm not in the education mix, but I doubt that's our problem.

Re:This is sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746815)

Well we take this attitude with health care.

Re:This is sad (1)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746863)

> You don't need a PhD in math to teach 10th grade geometry. I'm not in the education mix, but I doubt that's our problem.

Nobody is talking about a PhD. We're talking about COMPETENCE and you are trying to throw out the notion of a PhD as a red herring.

It should not take a PhD. Although an overqualified teacher is likely going to be the only one that can manage. There is a wide skill gap driven by general anti-intellectualism in this country. Teachers suffer from it as much as anyone else (perhaps more so).

Your own remarks are a manifestation of that anti-intellectualism.

Re:This is sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747009)

Competence, and a genuine interest in math. All the best teachers and professors I had clearly loved the subject they were teaching and were able to share that interest with their class. You could tell they weren't faking it and going through the motions.

Re:This is sad (1)

JWW (79176) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746959)

No, but to the point of the GP. Elementary school teachers should be experts in the subjects they teach at the grade level they teach. They don't need a math PhD to teach 3rd grade math.

Re:This is sad (1)

hattig (47930) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746775)

FFS teaching 10 year olds doesn't require that much in depth knowledge about any single subject. If a primary school teacher can't teach themselves the core curriculum for the age range they are teaching then there is a major problem with the teacher.

Oh, I can see that it's an issue for those doing their first year or two of teaching, where all the subjects have to be learned up front, but in later years surely these things don't change that much (government meddling aside).

So maybe there is a high turnover of primary school teachers, meaning they don't stay long enough to become actually effective. This is probably down to poor wages for the stress of that role. Or very lazy teachers cosying down in a role doing the bare minimum. Or the fact that the teachers are doing so much paperwork they never have the time to self-improve. The system, not the teachers, is to blame.

Well, they should know how to operate the computers in 2013.

Oh, education is a big bag of fail all round. So much emphasis on measurement that educating takes a back seat (except for the part covering the tests only).

Re:This is sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746893)

Qualified teachers teach in qualified schools. So high-ranking public schools, magnet schools, and private schools. Unless you have attended those schools, you probably will only encounter one or two good teachers. The rest became teachers probably because they thought it would be an easy job or they couldn't get over the fact that they did poorly in school before but wanted to re-experience it in their own way. Stupid, I know but it happens.

Re:This is sad (4, Interesting)

multimediavt (965608) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746979)

I went through grade school from 1977-1985. Most of that was spent in San Jose, California as Silicon Valley exploded. I had great teachers and an amazing Gifted and Talented education program. The teachers were completely versed in all the subjects they taught: history, English, math, sciences. They were paid poorly and some had second jobs. The school system was ok, but this was before most of the budget cuts that happened under Reagan. In 1983 we moved to Virginia where the system didn't know what to do with me (I was doing math and english a level higher than everyone else in this system) and as a result I had to take sixth grade math and English again. That really tilted the scales of me ever liking the Virginia educational system. It was funded better, but did less with it as you saw 15 years later with your experience. The good teachers dried up in k-12 because they could stay in school as long or a little longer and become university or college professors, or become researchers or consultants. All these vocations pay better and have better benefits, so as the k-12 budgets get cut less qualified people want those jobs. So, the downward spiral begins. When the measure of life is done in currency this problem with k-12 education shall remain. The good, qualified teachers that are in the system today are not there for the money. Hopefully, they have well paid spouses or enjoy a meager life doing what they love. These people are few and far between, however.

Re:This is sad (4, Interesting)

Notabadguy (961343) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747139)

My college experience was USMA (West Point).

Most faculty at military academies are also military officers. My freshman year, my instructor both looked and sounded like Major Payne.

Epic instructing example #1: (Read the instructor lines in Major Payne's voice)

The entire classroom is instructed to take to the chalk boards and work out a problem. Our instructor left the room to give us time to work on it. He returned 10 minutes later (everyone was stuck - no one had solved it). He addressed me.
Instructor: "Cadet! What is the answer?"
Me: "Sir, I do not know!"
Instructor: "Well, if you DID know the answer, what would it be?"
Me: "Sir, I do not know!"
Instructor: "You have all failed me! Class dismissed."

No answer, no walk-through...he didn't know either. I went to his office at the end of the day with my textbook, because I couldn't follow the logic in one of the example problems in the text-book.

Me: "Sir, I am stuck on this example problem. I don't understand the progress from Step B. to Step C.:
Instructor: "Read it again!"
Me: *reads again* "Sir, I still don't understand how to get from B. to C."
Instructor: "Read it again!"
Me: "Sir, I have read it again, and don't understand it!"
Instructor: "Then you have failed me! Your personal failure train is now departing my office! Chugga-chugga chugga-chugga Wooo wooooooooo!"

The highest grade in my class at mid-terms was a D, which is failing at West Point. I passed with a B- by spending my free period sitting in the back of the class of another instructor teaching the same material, and soliciting that instructor's help during lunch and after classes to understand the material.

Small class size (2)

DavidHumus (725117) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746611)

One piece of evidence that's been around for quite a while is that smaller classes are better. However, this translates directly into higher costs, so there's a lot of incentive to ignore this.

Just BS from teacher's unions (3, Interesting)

walterbyrd (182728) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746725)

For example: Korea has huge class sizes, and they kick our ass in math and science.

Propaganda from teacher's unions always say to just, randomly, throw money at the problem.

Re:Just BS from teacher's unions (4, Interesting)

wickerprints (1094741) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747035)

I personally have had teaching experience in the US at the high school level, and as an Asian-American, I don't think it's BS. Korea is a different country with very different cultural attitudes towards the value of learning, parental responsibility for child rearing, and the importance of fostering individuality rather than collective standards of behavior, compared to the US. Therefore, educational and classroom models that apply in Korea may not apply in the US, and vice versa. You cannot assume that just because a different model exists and is successful, that other models must be intrinsically flawed.

Look at what American kids are like, and compare that with Korean kids. You will find they hold very different notions of acceptable social behavior. You'll also find that Korean students are FAR more respectful to their teachers, not necessarily because Korean teachers are more knowledgeable or strict or experienced, but because Korean society as a whole places much more value on the educational process. The parents drill it into their kids, and the kids see the evidence of what constitutes a successful future in how their society rewards those who emerge at the top with respect to higher education. This is also true of China, Japan, and Singapore, among other Asian (and non-Asian) nations.

Take a Korean teacher and put them in front of a class of 30 American students, and see how long their pedagogical and disciplinary model lasts. American students know that they can't be punished and ultimately can't be held accountable for their own bad behavior--the worst that can happen is their parents have to discipline them at home, and how many American parents, with their own lack of self-control, really have what it takes to do that?

Re:Just BS from teacher's unions (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747053)

You're ignoring cultural differences. Just because large class sizes work in a country like Japan or China does not mean it will work in an urban classroom in America.

Great. JUST Great. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746613)

Now I have that "Pina Colada" song stuck in my head.

So much does not work (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746637)

Very often every system in education becomes hijacked by some interest group. Textbooks are a great example. Looking through my daughters' very expensive textbooks I can see that the science and math textbooks were written by non mathematician/scientists. One of my favorite questions went something like Jamal has 5 candies that are 5 different flavours; how can he distribute them among his 5 friends? Write all the ways. WHAT? Or just the usual questions that are missing some element such as you have a triangle that is 2 units on the bottom side and 3 units high. How long is the remaining side? But there is no picture of the triangle. Is this a right-triangle. Are they talking about the hypotenuse? And then one of the best. A grade 10 math textbook with a section on parabolas. My daughter was assigned the usual questions 1-20 at the end of the chapter. I don't quite remember how to find the vertex or some such so I leaf through the textbook to find out how. All it does is define the parabola and give some examples of how they can be used for things like flashlight reflectors. But absolutely no math involving the parabolas. None. Lots of parabola questions but no math. This was not some kind of workbook but a textbook where they had just been sloppy.

Then there is the technology. They are so lost. So so so lost. They have just grasp at technology. The usual result is that they buy big systems where moodle would be fine. But at no point do they really leverage the technology much. A great example is both of my daughters' schools have robocalls to tell me about things like vaccinations, school trips, etc. This is very annoying in that the calls usually waste most of the call telling me things that I don't care about. The worst part is that the critical bits are at the end. So I hear about things like congratulations to some student for winning a sack race in Kalamazoo and then in the end learn that some critical form needs to be turned in by 9am the next morning. Hello please use at least email. Maybe a website? The 20th century is calling and wants their robocaller back! I wonder how much they pay for this service?

But there is a wonderfully effective way to use computers in education. You look at student's marks. You then look at the pattern of the marks as the student's pass through various teachers. I am not talking about standardized tests but just comparing the marks of various students in the same classrooms. The key being that you can see that when a batch of students hits a truly great or terrible teacher that their marks will thrive or suffer for years to come. Bad teachers are like boulders in the stream; they result in much turbulence and waves far beyond their position in the time stream. Both of my daughters hit the same terrible math teacher. I tutored both of them past this disaster of a teacher but many of their co-students may have lost any hope at a career in STEM as their grade 10 math would then suck with little time left to recover to the point where they could leave HS with a good mark in Pre-cal let alone Calculus.

Re:So much does not work (5, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747019)

But there is a wonderfully effective way to use computers in education. You look at student's marks. You then look at the pattern of the marks as the student's pass through various teachers.

What?!!! That would allow you to actually truly measure teacher performance and effectiveness. It would make bad teachers absolutely impossible to miss.


Story from my Math teacher 20 years ago (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746661)

He talked about a very successful text that all the teachers loved. The thing I remember most was each section ended with 20 question, but only TWO were on the current chapter. The other 18 were review. The idea was to reinforce knowledge and not turn learning into a cram-and-forget cycle. He'd also talked about a text-selection process that had started a cycle of dumbing down content to make students look smarter. In the Google age, it might be possible to track down that book. Heck, it might be possible to track down *him*.

Re:Story from my Math teacher 20 years ago (4, Informative)

istartedi (132515) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746779)

When I was struggling with calculus my first year, and a lot of concepts hadn't gelled, I had an idea. I decided to go to the library and see if there were any better calculus texts. I found Calculus Made Easy [] and believe it or not, it actually made good on its promise. I aced my first semester calculus exam, with much thanks to that book. The biggest take-away was that they actually showed the relationship between summations, limits, and integrals. All of that material had been covered by other texts, and by teachers of course; but they had never related it. The "genius" of the invention of calculus was in that relationship, not just a bunch of dry examples of limits, series, and integrals.

And yes, this was actually more than 20 years ago. The copy I read was dug from the depths of the multi-story engineering library stacks at UVa, and even then it was an old copy. Now you can probably download it...

Re:Story from my Math teacher 20 years ago (3, Funny)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747017)

I can see why it was buried. You wouldn't want students finding out about a textbook that is only $17! There is no profit in that.

"public" education doesn't work (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746663)

We need to stop pretending that all children are created "equal". The big ignored problem here is that the dumb students HOLD BACK the smart ones and they all suffer because the public school system is fundamentally broken. Not all kids should be in school at all, many of them would do better just getting jobs as soon as they are physically able and the rest simply going to private school or home school and going on from there without the drag of the stupid/abusive kids that too often come from welfare-addicted statist families.

I wonder .... (2)

PPH (736903) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746665)

... if competing private schools [] advertise their curriculum, including the 'What Works Warehouse' scores of their teaching materials relative to the public school offerings.

no one knows about a government site? (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746669)

sounds like classic federal government
have a site full of good info but don't tell anyone about it so no one knows about it

Why are you Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746723)

...Surprisingly, the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as much as teachers; poor materials have as much effect as a bad teacher, and good materials can offset a bad teacher's deficiencies....

Surprisingly? I would have thought it was quite a strong possibility.

Why do you feel the need to put emotive adverbs at the start of your sentences?

Math Software (1)

internerdj (1319281) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746739)

I don't think they are refering to the same thing but I had a couple courses with required Math software assignments. Now learning Matlab was valuable, but I spent the courses learning the quirks of the software rather than the material and the lack of that material has been harmful. Without a teacher who can walk you through the software to get at the material, math software can be as much of a distraction as a help.

Re:Math Software (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746955)

We had Number Munchers, it was definitely more confusing than regular maths on paper/chalkboard.

Re:Math Software (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747029)

I have a copy of MATLAB somewhere. I used it in Calculus class for a grand total of one assignment. It appeared to be a "check mark" requirement of some sort like "hey we used technology in this course". It was also surprising though, since the Math department at this University hated calculators.

Measuring Achievement (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746781)

"For example a program to increase 7th-grade math teachers' understanding of math increased their understanding but had no effect on student achievement."
Well if achievement is measured in grades received for that course, well of course not. They all have bell curves to maintain and everyone must still pass. If a teacher gets better at teaching, they will teach better and grade harder.

got to give Gingrich credit (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746785)

Newt Gingrich is the ONLY politician I have heard specifically support federal education research, of the many politicians whom publicly support better education (Jeb Bush). He also pushed for research into anti-Alzheimer drugs, to reduce expensive human caretakers later in life. Gingrich lies, cheats, and is corrupt, but he has intelligence.

Yes, I would like a moon base.

Re:got to give Gingrich credit (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747119)

Any politician on the right that doesn't follow strict purity rules will not get anywhere. There isn't anyone else in the GOP that really want any type of scientific evidence for classroom instruction. They are in a full-fledged war on intellectualism right now.

It's been going on for a long time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746789)

Nice easily accessible and readable articles there (1)

hattig (47930) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746797)

Maybe teachers would pick up this information if it wasn't presented in such a horrible way. I.e., they need a TL;DR version, not a massive wordy paper or newspaper article.

The purpose of Schooling is not Education (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746805)

The Underground History of Education []

Commence the apologist "debunking" of this book slash "just a dumb Anonymous Coward trolling" in 5, 4, 3...

Re:The purpose of Schooling is not Education (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747101)

I've read this, and people like Gatto deserve a place at the table when talking about education reform. He's right on when he describes the top-heavy organizations he worked in and how the system changed to emphasize non-teaching administrators instead of teachers.

Like everyone, though, he needs to be read with skepticism. If I remember correctly, he goes right up to the line of endorsing corporal punishment in the classroom as a cure which I don't personally buy. He promotes some of his beliefs as solid fact as well.

However, I'd some all of his observations are worth reading.

Cut education! That works great GOPers! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746849)

You clown car show is almost over, GOP. You are slowly become extinct, like those "fake" dinosaurs you all mock.

A couple of things (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746887)

From the quick scan of the linked page, it seems that the leading math textbook was used to teach for an additional hour each week. It doesn't seem to me that all things were kept equal.
Secondly, it has been a constant source of frustration how "locked in" K-12 schools seem to be over math tuition. They will not deviate from what is "on grade" at any cost, the system seems to be set up entirely for the convenience of the teachers without regard for the students. If a student is doing well, they may consider promotion from, 6th grade to 7th or even 8th grade. But those are the only choices and they make no logical sense to me. If the teacher has a Phd in math I can't see why he/she can't shepherd students through material that is at least slightly tailored to their needs.

Education is all about politics (1)

onyxruby (118189) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746889)

Educational standards are a mess because you have trends that are butting heads. Today's educational standards are largely dictated by political correctness, politics and avoiding anything that could be considered a legacy way of doing things. The result is that educators are loathe to take anything away from teaching their politically correct platforms. The second trend is standardized testing, intended to make sure that kids are actually being taught real world skills like reading, writing and arithmetic.

The result is an epic multi-billion dollar pissing contest between political correctness and having students prepared for the real world. Neither side will give an inch and to make matters worse where you live (California, Texas etc) largely dictates what your taught. Absent a miracle of a rational national standardized education platform of some kind that largely removes politics the situation isn't going to get any better.

Too lazy to google for examples right now, but you can easily find many examples of prominent historical figures being given only a single paragraph in a history book or evolution being taught as a hypotheses and so on.

Double-plus good? Really? (1)

Drewdad (1738014) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746891)

This is what happens when scientists don't study literature.

Moral of the story.... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746903)

If you want your kids to be highly educated. Either put them in private school or home school them.

Cue the low IQ morons that claim that social interaction skills are more important than actually having an education.

Re:Moral of the story.... (2, Insightful)

TheSkepticalOptimist (898384) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747167)

Yes, if you want your kids to be both ignorant and socially retarded, then please homeschool them.

While I will agree some home schooled kids receive a good level education, considering that it also requires significant discipline from the parents usually home schooled children come from families of highly opinionated and socially maladjusted adults that are simply pushing their own narrow minded views of life on their children.

For instance a religious parent is going to skip over the bits of "science" that don't align with the Bible, or a vegan parent is going to force their children to be vegan. And then on top of that the parent controls every aspect of social interaction of the child with other children, they are going to pick and choose only children from other families with a similar narrow-minded outlook on life. If you want to hide your children from being able to make their own decisions in life when they become an adult, then clone their minds to your exact POV through home school. The role of a parent is to guide their child to adulthood, not to make carbon copies of themselves.

And yes, social interaction is a lot more important in the long run than IQ. IQ is nothing, its a measure of how well you can retain information. Having a high IQ but then being socially awkward means you probably won't have a lot of success in life. It might not be fair, but applying for a job is a social experience, your resume can be full of glowing recommendations from your, um, parents, but you ain't getting that job if you can't demonstrate compatibility with the culture of the company you are applying for.

Hiding your child from social interaction just to selectively shove information into their brains, does that sound like a great idea? I mean homeschooling is pretty much just a step away from being a cult with a lot fewer members.

Variable students (5, Interesting)

gurps_npc (621217) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746931)

Part of the problem is that what works for one student doesn't always work for another.

You can't expect a child with dyslexia to learn from the same program that works for an excellent reader. Less serious learning issues have similar effect.

One thing I never understood is why we don't have a public boarding school option for those kids whose parents clearly are the problem.

If your parents are homeless, drug addicts, or convicted felons, you have about a 50% drop out rate. If we just offered them public boarding schools, we could save those kids - at far less cost over the long term than what those drop outs will end up costing the government.

Boarding schools can go for as low as $25k / year, vs regular schools at half that while a year in prison costs over $100k If just save just one out of 8 of those kids from a life of prison, we come out ahead.

Social science (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44746983)

is not.

Good news (1)

Voice of satan (1553177) | 1 year,27 days | (#44746997)

It shows that the rambling of "education" specialists are widely ignored as they should be. Their methodoly to evaluate the efficency of teaching maths and science is usually disastrous because they have not the slightest idea on how maths and science work. But they believe the get it pretty well out of their own ignorance. My American colleages call their mental flatulences "ed-speak"

In my university they tried to "counsel" the engineering faculty (science faculty told them to f.. off) and the results were miserable. So now they are ignored by everyone relevant. The problem is their discourse has the abilty to make the suckers believe they were injustly treated by the institution. And there are more suckers than competent people. It give the "ed people" a big nuisance capacity.

Where i was raised, their influence is now limited to the public schools because the elites nearly never go there so nobody cares. Sad.

So they can't get teachers to LEARN what works? (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747025)

Maybe they should use their own methods. Maybe they should do studies on how to get teachers to learn what does and doesn't work. It seems like an awfully ironic problem for them to have.

You don't need PhD to figure this out (1)

TooTechy (191509) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747103)

Find teachers who love to teach and can evangelize their subject. Keep them happy at work by paying more and give them nicer working conditions.

Kids will respond.

Randomized Trials Like Medicine (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,27 days | (#44747109)

I'm in the field, and education has made a fetish of randomized studies without realizing that such studies are defacto prone to bias (many randomized studies in education are to test some program that the researchers have an interest in) and that single studies are at best "interesting" but far from decisive. Repeated drug trials produce different results (see Dumit, _Drugs for life_). Education is a lot less controllable than human physiology (which is hardly controllable at all). As with the rest of science there is little glory in replicating others' work in any case, so at the end of the day all we have is a kind of frightening uncertainty about what works (in medicine and education).

This.. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | 1 year,27 days | (#44747171)

This is why my wife quit education. She was a teacher. She left and got a PhD in education, became a prof and did some of the research that is widely ignored. What's the point of going to the trouble of doing education research if the results are going to be ignored.

Now she has a yarn store and teaches math part time at the local college because it's fun.

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