March 20, 2009

Reboot II

I noted in the previous post that the public education system needs a reboot to get a fresh start.

To use another metaphor, the public school system needs to be declared bankrupt so it can be restructured, eliminating all the conditions that drove it into bankruptcy in the first place.

The primary reason for the reboot, as opposed to less drastic measures, is to extinguish all the bad contracts, obligations, and relationships they've entangled themselves in and have had thrust upon them by political means.

As I pointed out in the previous post, after the great reboot of aught nine you'd have students, teachers, buildings, equipment/instructional material, and existing funding. All that is needed is to restructure the relationship between these existing elements so the incentives are better aligned while avoiding the mistakes of the present system.

So how should the system be rebuilt?

Power to the People

The first, and most important, fix is to return the power to the people. Education funding should go directly to the students to spend on education services as they see fit. One way to do this would be to set up education savings accounts for each student, like medical savings accounts, that can only be used for education services.

People pay taxes for education. A certain percentage of those taxes go to fund the education for the benefit of the public. But a person should a get a credit for a percentage of the taxes they pay each year that goes into their education savings account for at least the benefit of their own children's education. The idea is to provide parents (and students) control over their children's education commensurate with resources they've contributed into the system free from interference from the government or otherwise. To the extent that students are being subsidized from public funds, then it is likely that taxpayers, through their elected representatives, will want some control how those funds are spent. That seems to me to be a fair compromise.

Teachers Will Be Professionals

Teachers need to be professionalized, whether they like it or not, with all the benefits and responsibilities that flow from that status. We need professionals to do the hard work of education because we need educators to be responsible for student outcomes. Teachers should be like treated like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. Doctors don't have to cure every patient and lawyers don't have to win every dispute, but they are required to render their services competently. If they fail to do so they risk having their license revoked and having to compensate for their malpractice. The upside is that as professionals, teachers will be free to render their services (within the guidelines established by the profession) in the manner of their choosing and free from the silly micro-regulations in effect today because educators have failed to police themselves like other professions.

The main benefit for teachers for professionalizing is that teachers themselves get to decide how they will organize themselves to offer their services. Any professional teacher can put out a shingle and offer services as a sole practitioner. Or than can partner up with one or more lawyers and offer services as a partnership. They can enter into more complicated organizational structures as they grow, much like modern day law firms and doctor practices.

Of course, since educators haven't yet developed their own code of professional responsibility (especially one that people trust), they're going to need some objective criteria for determining when services have been rendered adequately. This can be accomplished by ...

All Educational Services Will be Rendered on a Contractual Basis

Students and their teacher would have a contract setting forth the manner in which educational services will be rendered and criteria against which learning will be measured. Students will have obligations and so would teachers. Ideally, the system might work like this:

The teachers would determine her entrance requirements and placement criteria. The teacher should be able to determine if the student has the skills,knowledge, and other factors needed to succeed in the class. The teacher would also determine the obligations of the students accepted for instruction, such attendance criteria, homework criteria, and the like. Teachers are in the best position to determine whether a student is capable of succeeding with the instructional methods that will be employed and the teacher's assessment of her own skills. This is only fair since the teacher will be on the hook for educating the students she accepts. Bear in mind that the more stringent the teacher's requirements, the more difficult it will be for the teacher to attract students, so this process should find an efficient equilibrium point that satisfies both teachers and students.

teachers will also be required to spell out everything that will take place in the classroom and exactly what skills and knowledge will be taught and learned by the students -- what will be taught, how it will be taught, what curriculum will be used, how will the curriculum be supplemented, and the like. The student and her parents should be able to determine in advance exactly what will be taking place in the classroom and what will be learned.

Most importantly, the education contract will specify the class's exit criteria and whether it has been met by the student. The exit criteria should include the content specified by the State which will likely be a minimal skills test to assure the public that it has gotten the expected value from its investment. The exit criteria should also include any additional content, if any, that the teacher has promised to teach in the education contract.

Also, spelled out in the education contract should be the downstream teachers/programs that accept this teacher's final exam as fulfilling their entrance requirements. For example, the final arithmetic teacher would specify in her education contract which algebra teachers accept a passing grade in her class as fulfilling their algebra class prerequisites. This will encourage teachers to work together to develop their own standards that will carry students from the beginning of their formal education to the end, whether it be college or work.

As professionals, teachers would be responsible for assuring that all the students they accept learn everything they've promised to teach and pass the final exam. Otherwise, the teacher will be given a brief period (say two weeks) to cure the student's deficiencies through remediation. Failing to cure the student's deficiencies will result in the teaching forfeiting some or all of the funding she received to educate the student which will go to remediating the student.

Education Colleges Will No Longer Have a Monopoly on Teacher Preparation

Any person with an undergraduate degree should be able to teach if she is capable of passing the state's licensing exam and background check. This would include degrees from college's of education.

College's of education mostly teach pedagogy. But pedagogy should be determined by practicing teachers. Some teachers may find value in the pedagogy taught in Ed colleges in which case they should be free to hire Ed school graduates. Other teachers may feel that content knowledge is more valuable and that pedagogy is best taught by them according to their own philosophy in which case they should be free to hire graduates of their choosing.

Classrooms should be allocated to teachers who've attracted sufficient students in the district the school Building serves

Since the community owns the school buildings and the equipment therein, these resources should be offered to any teacher who has attracted sufficient students from the district to consume the eduction services they're offering.

Any licensed teacher (or group of teachers) should be able to offer educational services to students in any school district. For example, before every semester there might be an educational services "fair" in which all teachers interested in offering educational services in a particular school district advertise their offerings and attempt to attract students. Each classroom should be rated as to the minimum and maximum students it can hold. Once a teacher has attracted the minimum number of students in the district that teacher would be entitled to lease a classroom in that district for that semester. That teacher determines the maximum number of students she believes she can educate. The number of students successfully educated per semester determines the compensation that teacher receives. This provides an incentive for teachers to maximize the efficiency of the services they provide.

If students don't like the educational services offered in their home district, they are free to go to any other school district that has room. In this way, classroom space will be efficiently allocated. This also permits niche educational offerings to pull students from different districts.

I'm going to stop here for this post and let you chew this over. I haven't included everything that a well run public school system should have, such as funding allocation, but I think you have enough to see how my proposed system better aligns the incentives needed to improve education.

No doubt I've failed to include much and have failed to account for various factors. That's what the comments are for to point out my mistakes and help to improve on this basic framework. Or to argue that certain parts should simply be thrown out.

Do your worst.

I'll attempt to draft a post that includes the rest of the framework while responding to your critiques.

69 comments:

Dick Schutz said...

Oh my, Ken. The U.S. public school enterprise isn’t bankrupt. Far from it. The great majority of parents are satisfied with their kids’ schools, however lousy the kid’s school may be. And the Feds are putting up billions of “Stimulus” money into the endeavor.

There are some 15,000 LEAs in the country—each independent. The enterprise is about as far removed from a single unit that might declare bankruptcy as one could think of. You got out of the skillet of one metaphor and into the fire of another.

The current enterprise does several things well. For one, despite higher-ed badmouthing, the enterprise does an excellent job of screening and delivering students for advanced specialized education.

For two, the enterprise does a helluva good job of babysitting kids for a good part of the day to take them off parent’s hands.

For three, the enterprise is the “first responder” caretaker in nurturing kids’ health, mental health, and nutrition.

The enterprise performs other public services, but for those alone, were it not to exist, it would have to be invented.

The enterprise is vulnerable in the one area that parents, citizenry, and government look to it for service: reliable instructional accomplishments. But this “big glitch” in the “system” is not with students and teachers. It’s with the top—the government-academic-publisher complex. Your proposed “fix” lets the unaccountables completely off the hook.

The basis of the “big glitch” is that the enterprise has been able to claim success for the kids who would learn with little or no formal instruction of any sort and for the kids who manage to learn despite mis-instruction. The rest are shunted off to Special Education as soon as one or more psycho-babbled labels can be slapped on them. Others, who escape SpEd, continue to “struggle” or drop out.

How to fix the glitch? Change instructional product/protocols (programs) and testing practices. This is the route for dramatic cost savings (in real dollars) and dramatic productivity improvement (transparent instructional accomplishments).

Some of your suggestions make sense to me, but they’re all pie in the sky. Without some notion of how each would be effected and how to overcome the overwhelming interests whose oxen would be gored by each initiative, it’s all wishful. And even if the set of initiatives were implemented by waving a magic wand, the enterprise would still be left with the “big glitch” to resolve.

But apparently you have more shoes to drop in the matter, so you’re still “up.”

mazenko said...

There is most certainly a level of professional responsibility that the people trust in this country. 75% of parents are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their children's school, and 85% of Americans are "very satisfied" with their own education. Thus, there is much disconnect between "hype" in the news and on blogs and the everyday reality of most Americans. Additionally, teachers cannot and should not be compared to doctors and lawyers, as those professions don't see their clients everyday and they are not held liable if their clients don't follow their advice. The old anecdote on dentists being judged - and paid - by how few cavities their patients get is apt in this case.

As it stands, the taxpayers get many times their investment in the education system. When a small percentage of my property taxes goes to education, but the district spends $12,000 per kid, I am getting a great deal, as many taxpayers don't have kids in the system. However, we all benefit from an educated population, hence the subsidy. Yet, that investment doesn't allow me to tell someone how he should raise his kids - and it probably shouldn't.

Because the Supreme Court ruled education a "property right," there will be little ability to enforce a contract on a kid. If he wants to blow off his education, that's his right. That's why charter and magnet schools can force kids out who don't meet expectations, but the kids just return to their "home" public school, and that school can't do anything for academic negligence. Behavior can be used, but academic failure can't. I don't think that's necessarily a good thing, and it's not true anywhere else in the industrialized world, but that's our system. And until the Court changes its mind, which it will never do, we are stuck. However, I'd like to see schools move toward earlier graduation - say at sixteen - with that contractual idea added to the junior/senior years. That might work.

I'm with you on licensing, but only if that were true for lawyers, CPAs, and others? How about doctors? It gets dicey there, doesn't it?

I enjoy the debate, but the system needs far less overhaul and incentive than you imagine. It actually over-serves American society as it is.

Dick Schutz said...

Spot on--in my view, Mazenko.

You say, "I'd like to see schools move toward earlier graduation - say at sixteen - with that contractual idea added to the junior/senior years."

I've elaborated on this notion (we're not the first to think of it) in a paper "A Game Plan for Dramatically Improving The Productivity of the El-Hi Schooling Enterprise"

http://ssrn.com/author=1199505

Paul said...

Maybe this will come up when you provide more info about funding allocations, but your current description makes it sound like students from less-affluent families will also typically receive fewer educational dollars' worth of education. Is that accurate? Or does the "for the benefit of the public" portion of the taxes have some sort of progressive arrangement?

Also, will school facilities have to be modified to cope with the coming Flying Pig Epidemic of 2009? Bird turds are already something of a problem on some campuses.

tft said...

Besides being completely insane, its a great idea!

KDeRosa said...

Ok, let's see if I can address some of the points raised.

Dick,

The great majority of parents are satisfied with their kids’ schools, however lousy the kid’s school may be.

This is exactly right, Dick, which is why there is nothing in my plan which precludes these satisfied people from asking for and getting a very similar system to the one they already enjoy.

The reboot is necessary only to the extent that it allows for all the players to adjust to the new conditions without being bound by any existing contracts.

The enterprise is vulnerable in the one area that parents, citizenry, and government look to it for service: reliable instructional accomplishments. But this “big glitch” in the “system” is not with students and teachers. It’s with the top—the government-academic-publisher complex. Your proposed “fix” lets the unaccountables completely off the hook.

I'd argue that those who are currently happy with the present syste, do not believe that the system is failing in the instructional delivery department (at least with respect to their own children). So, to this extent, the higher-ups aren't doing anything wrong to be accountable for at least in these people's opinion.

My plan merely gives people who are not satisfied with the current system the means to opt-out and obtain a public education that is more suitable for their children in their opinion.

The basis of the “big glitch” is that the enterprise has been able to claim success for the kids who would learn with little or no formal instruction of any sort and for the kids who manage to learn despite mis-instruction.

Is it mis-instruction if the kids are learning an amount that satisfies them and their parents. Some people might not want an education that is maximally efficient and are willing to live with whatever trade-offs inherent in the more "child-centered" teaching methods. I'd argue that parents should be free to mis0educate their children if they are doing so with their own money, provided they've contributed their share to the public education system. Those that are receiving public dollars for education should only be as accountable as the public demands.

The rest are shunted off to Special Education as soon as one or more psycho-babbled labels can be slapped on them. Others, who escape SpEd, continue to “struggle” or drop out.

My system partially solves this problem by requiring that teachers provide remediation and forfeiting compensation for those they've failed to educate. And its partially solved in ways that I hope to describe in my next post. I'm not sure this problem can ever fully be solved because some students we simply do not know how to educate and no one should be able to accept this risk.

Change instructional product/protocols (programs) and testing practices.

Why should people who are satisfied with the present programs be forced to change?

This is the route for dramatic cost savings (in real dollars) and dramatic productivity improvement (transparent instructional accomplishments).

The system will remain socialized because that's what a majority of the people want, so there will never be cost savings. Public education will always be expensive -- that's the price you pay for socialism.

It sounds like your advocating for the benevolent dictator route. There isn't political support for this. At least my plan gives people an option to opt out of the present system and hopefully adopt some of the programs you advocate. As long as the system is transparent (next post) then the hope is that the programs become increasingly attracting to others due to their performance advantage and would slowly drain resources from less successful programs. That's how a well functioning and regulated market is supposed to work.

KDeRosa said...

Mazenko,

75% of parents are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their children's school, and 85% of Americans are "very satisfied" with their own education.

Assuming arguendo that this is the case, what harm is there in giving the at least 25% that are not satisfied and option to select education services that would satisfy them?

Additionally, teachers cannot and should not be compared to doctors and lawyers, as those professions don't see their clients everyday

I don't see how this point is relevant.

and they are not held liable if their clients don't follow their advice.

No, but they are held liable for giving bad advice.

The old anecdote on dentists being judged - and paid - by how few cavities their patients get is apt in this case.

Here are just a few examples of dental malpractice cases in which patients took hefty settlements or won large awards at trial:

- Nerve injuries that affected a patient’s ability to taste
- Nerve injuries that caused permanent numbness in the tongue (or even just part of the tongue)
- Complications arising from negligently completed crowns and bridges
- Dentists’ failures to take a patient’s relevant medical history into account before acting
- Failure to detect oral cancer, periodontal disease, or other diseases

- Certain complications from anesthesia, even when releases are signed
- Unnecessary extraction of multiple teeth
- Extraction of wrong teeth

I've highlighted the most relevant analogies relevant to teachers.

As it stands, the taxpayers get many times their investment in the education system. When a small percentage of my property taxes goes to education, but the district spends $12,000 per kid, I am getting a great deal, as many taxpayers don't have kids in the system. However, we all benefit from an educated population, hence the subsidy. Yet, that investment doesn't allow me to tell someone how he should raise his kids - and it probably shouldn't.

I agree with this entire paragraph.

Because the Supreme Court ruled education a "property right," there will be little ability to enforce a contract on a kid.

That education is a property right only implies that procedural due process be accorded to any student to which this right is deprived. This merely means that student be provided notice and afforded a hearing.

Generally, school authorities have the power to expel or suspend a student who disobeys a reasonable rule or regulation provided that they've been afforded due process.

If he wants to blow off his education, that's his right.That's why charter and magnet schools can force kids out who don't meet expectations, but the kids just return to their "home" public school, and that school can't do anything for academic negligence. Behavior can be used, but academic failure can't.

Do you have a citation for this?

Many states provide for alternative education schools for various infractions.

And, even if this were the case in some or all states, these situation, which I think are somewhat rare, can be dealt with in-District. I'll try to address this in my next post.

However, I'd like to see schools move toward earlier graduation - say at sixteen - with that contractual idea added to the junior/senior years. That might work.

The entire notion of "grade levels" is antiquated. A child's academic placement should be based on his skill/knowledge level, not on chronological age (within reason).

And attendance should be voluntary after a certain point. I'd say that high school should be entirely voluntary.

I'm with you on licensing, but only if that were true for lawyers, CPAs, and others? How about doctors? It gets dicey there, doesn't it?

You can certainly argue that law school and medical school are overkill and merely a way to limit the amount of members in the professions which lowers the supply and, thus, raises the rates the professionals can extract. You could also argue that this was not a good thing for either profession and that we shouldn't make the same mistake for the new teacher profession, especially since its members will be on the public teat from day one.

Having said this, however, there may be a need for a specialized education degree for education at-risk kids in which high pedagogical skill levels are needed. The problem is that ed schools currently don't tend to impart these skills. One day when they demonstrate some proficiency in this area we should consider a specialized degree requirement.

I don't see a need for such skills in the teachers of the top half of the curve.

KDeRosa said...

Paul, I'll try to address these points in my next post.

KDeRosa said...

TFT,

Besides being completely insane, its a great idea!

Insane like a fox!

Paul said...

I feel like it's a little ironic, in this context, to complain that "there isn't political support for" somebody else's educational reform proposal.

KDeRosa said...

Paul, I think the logic goes something like this. In school X they do Y. Some/many parents like Y because their kids are doing ok/well. Other parents don't like Y, they like W. Let's say for the sake of argument that W is an empirically better education program that would help all students. Any reform that results in W being rammed down the throats of everyone is going to result in the parents who like Y to be very upset. For any reform to have a chance of passing, the parents who like Y must continue to get Y.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken, my understanding is that the reason governments exist is to promote the common good. The reason that governments in all developed countries finance education is for the same reason.

To advocate abandoning the enterprise or putting all responsibility for governance in the hands of "parents" flies in the face of both history and the present situation.

That polls show parents are "satisfied" with their schools doesn't tell the whole story by any means. Since the earliest days of polling, education has remained at or near the top of domestic "problems."

It still is--which got you started on the "reboot" kick.

I fully concur with your take on where the Obama administration is heading in education. But where you'd like to head would put el-hi instruction in worse condition than it presently is and would create undesirable social conditions.

I've contended that a much less radical step is all that is required to begin moving in a reasonable direction: acknowledge that the bipartisan federal educational policy since 1989 has failed. The Obama administration hasn't yet recognized this. The President has received very faulty educational intelligence--hence the 5 ponies.

One operational matter we agree on is that there is waste in prevailing high school education that can be cleaned up. However, making high school voluntary would create more problems than it would resolve.

I advocate picking up the recommendations of the "National Commission on the Senior Year." The timing of the Commission couldn't have been worse. It was appointed by the Clinton administration and reported in the early days of the Bush administration when all eyes were on NCLB. But the recommendations are even more timely today than they were then.

Paul said...

Ken, yes, I think that's probably a good approximation of some of the logic, but parents are far from the only relevant political force in education. We can assume, for the sake of argument, that you have identified a necessary condition for education reform. But it is by no means a sufficient condition.

KDeRosa said...

Dick,

my understanding is that the reason governments exist is to promote the common good.

That's my understand as well.

I believe that in education, promotion of the common good would be satisfied by providing funding for those who don't have it and ensure access to education to all.

I believe my plan satisfies this.

To advocate abandoning the enterprise or putting all responsibility for governance in the hands of "parents" flies in the face of both history and the present situation.

My plan doesn't abandon the enterprise or put all governance in the hands of parents.

I would expect that a large plurality or maybe even a majority of parents would want exactly the same system they presently have, permitting educators to readopt practically the same system they have now, replete with the same unions, similar contracts, same administration, same teachers, same instruction, etc.

On the surface, things would appear exactly the same for these people. But, what they've gained is the ability to change their mind if they become dissatisfied.

Also, the role of school boards, state departments of education, and the federal DOE would still be maintained. This is how funding levels and distribution would be determined. Also, facilities would still be controlled by the boards along with whatever policies and standards they want.

Parents/students are only getting the power to decide on the teacher they want and perhaps what courses that will be taken (most likely from a menu approved by the board/DOE). But, that's a powerful decision since it is directly aligned with what needs to be improved in education -- instruction.

But where you'd like to head would put el-hi instruction in worse condition than it presently is and would create undesirable social conditions.

Why would this be the case?

acknowledge that the bipartisan federal educational policy since 1989 has failed.

I don't remember education being significantly better prior to 89. I'll take a look at the paper.

KDeRosa said...

but parents are far from the only relevant political force in education.

I agree which is why my plan permits those who like the status quo to go right back to the status quo as if nothing has changed.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Schultz): "...governments exist...to promote the common good."
(Ken): "That's my understand(ing) as well."

This is the major flaw in the reasoning.

"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." --George Washington

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." --Mao Tse Tung

Weber defines "govermnent" as "the monopoly om legitimate violence". Since monopolies are seldom absolute and since the State itself gets to define "legitimate", I prefer "the government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality".

I recommend...
Randall G. Holcombe
"Government: Unnecessary but Inevitable"
__The Independent Review__,Volume 8 Number 3 (Winter 2004)

Eduardo Zambrano
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
__Rationality and Society, May 1999; 11: 115 - 138.

"Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is an important question left for further work."

KDeRosa said...

Malcolm I thought Dick was referring back to the general welfare clause of the preamble of the Constitution and not necessarily questioning the basis of government.

Stacy said...

Ken, I nominate you to be the Education Czar. You'd do a great job. Unfortunately, this post has offended every special interest group that sucks off the teat of public education. They'd massacre you. I belong to several homeschool support groups, and contarary to popular belief, most of us are not religious wack jobs. We've simply checked out of the stupidity that is public education. Although still a very small percent of the total student population, we're a growing bunch. This is not to suggest that homeschooling is a realistic alternative for most parents, but that is what most parent want ~ alternatives. Once the Genie leaves the bottle there's no getting him back inside.

So those of you defending the status quo, keep your eyes averted because the emperor has no clothes and we all know it.

Sorry the the trite metaphores.

Paul said...

"I agree which is why my plan permits those who like the status quo to go right back to the status quo as if nothing has changed."

Ken, you don't usually say things this silly. As Stacy sort of says, there are far too many interest groups that are far too invested in maintaining the status quo (some for good reasons, some for bad reasons) for your plan to be implemented.

And, of course, it wouldn't be "returning to the status quo" if, you know, only a small subgroup were doing so.

I have to assume, given your usual reasonableness, that on some level you appreciate that your plan stands just about zero chance of acquiring adequate political support to be implemented. I'm not even sure why you're pretending otherwise.

KDeRosa said...

Stacy, I'm more the eduction George Washington because after the revolution I'd go back to my country estate instead of being crowned czar.

Paul, I am well aware that any plan that actually looks like it might upset the status quo has zero chance of being implemented. Public education has not been about educating children for a long time; its about diverting public funds to special interest groups so said groups can help those diverting the funds get reelected. The education that takes place is incidental.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken, it's hard to find anyone who thinks schools are doing the best possible job. The thing is the "choices" they are offered are largely rhetorical. If you look at "the best private schools" they don't perform all that better than run-of-the-mill public schools.

Some charters and magnet schools look better because they skim teachers and kids. And as someone has pointed out, they can toss out the bad eggs who cause them trouble. Still, there is much attrition of teachers and kids. The teachers are moving toward unionizing for the same reason that teachers in public schools unionize. And the charters do lead to greater racial and class segregation.

For the last 8 years both the feds and state and local ed authorities have been cherry picking test results, reporting "we're making gains." But texts and tests haven't changed and the IES study of the Billions poured into Reading First has had No Impact.

Sooner or later this is all going to come out in the wash. But for right know President Obama is just an eloquent George Bush and Arne Duncan (to borrow from Diane Ravitch is Margaret Spellings in drag--with $100 billion walk-around money to dispense. It's a crazy situation.

Redkudu said...

Can you clarify your ideas about teachers partnering up "...with one or more lawyers and offer services as a partnership. They can enter into more complicated organizational structures as they grow, much like modern day law firms and doctor practices" and "Classrooms should be allocated to teachers who've attracted sufficient students in the district the school Building serves"?

One sounds like a private endeavor (or charter, perhaps?), the other public. I'm finding it difficult to distinguish between the two thoughts, so any analogy you can offer would be welcome. This is definitely some interesting food for thought, and I'm enjoying reading it.

mazenko said...

I taught at a school years ago that made attendance "voluntary." It was an above average, middle-class, suburban school. And the policy was a fiasco, a disaster, a catastrophe. It lasted a year before it was rescinded.

However, Dick and Ken are both right, in that there is a tremendous waste of time and resources at the high school level, and a move to a more European/Asian system based on core competencies (as Ken noted in "grade level" being over-rated; I wouldn't say completely outdated) would be a huge improvement.

Check out the reform plan in New Hampshire on this. It sounds like a great "opening salvo" in the education re-boot.

Dick Schutz said...

The "opening salvo" of the states buying into the "National Center on Education and the Economy" is shooting with blanks.

"The Report of the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce" has been around since 2006. The current news releases just parrot President Obama's five ponies. A parrot and five ponies is not "Change we can believe in."

One would think that a Center focused on education and the economy would present a sound "business plan" with costs, timelines, and such. But such a plan is nowhere to be found.

If the states had the capacity to deliver on the President's ponies they would have done so. More money is unlikely to yield much more than same ol, same ol.

KDeRosa said...

Redkudu,

I'll use a large law firm as one example of a complex association of professionals (in this case lawyers).

Typically, the senior attorneys are partners who own the firm and bear the risk and the reward of the business. The partners get paid the profits (if any) of the firm. The most senior partners typically run the firm.

The less experienced attorneys are typically employees and draw a salary. They get paid their agreed upon salary regardless of how well the firm does. As they gain experience and prove their worth, they will often be asked to join the partnership. In a sense this is like gaining tenure, except that if you piss off the other partners, you can be thrown out of the partnership.

The firm also employs (or contracts with outside agencies) other people who are not licensed professionals (and thus can never become partners) such as paralegals and support staff (secretaries, mail room personnel, receptionists, office managers, HR personnel) to do work that it is too expensive to pay attorneys for.

Firms lease office space from the owners of buildings. In the same way, teachers should be able to lease classroom space in existing school buildings which are technically owned by the community/public.

We have to stop thinking of schools as the school building. A school is the meeting between teacher and one or more students.

Dick Schutz said...

"A school is the meeting between teacher and one or more students."

How about stretching a little more, Ken.

First, you're overlooking the non-instructional functions that schools provide
--babysitting
--first order physical and mental health screening
--first order drug and crime screening
--nutrition services
--libraries
--counseling
--"clubs"
--athletics
and so on.

You're advocating going back to the medieval form of schooling.

Second, instruction using state-of-the-art Info Tech can be any time/anywhere and it needn't always involve a human instructor.

Third, it is feasible and desirable to get more differentiation into "teacher" along the lines you suggest. But it can start with peer tutoring, move up to cross-age tutoring and paraprofessional. With this structure the first level of what is now "teacher" morphs into a largely managerial function.

Hit the delete button on "administrators" Some bean counters are required to keep the books straight, but that's strictly financial accounting. Some "computer-type" staff would also be handy, but upper level instructional managers would spend their time keeping the pulse of dashboard instructional accomplishment information.

This structure would provide for transparent responsibility and accountability all along the line.

It's a much more open system and it's dramatically more economical than what goes on in the current enterprise.

Mr. McNamar said...

A long post so I skimmed through. I like much of it but I noticed this:
"Teachers should be like treated like doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. Doctors don't have to cure every patient and lawyers don't have to win every dispute, but they are required to render their services competently. If they fail to do so they risk having their license revoked and having to compensate for their malpractice."

And then later:
"As professionals, teachers would be responsible for assuring that all the students they accept learn everything they've promised to teach and pass the final exam. Otherwise, the teacher will be given a brief period (say two weeks) to cure the student's deficiencies through remediation. Failing to cure the student's deficiencies will result in the teaching forfeiting some or all of the funding she received to educate the student which will go to remediating the student"

If doctors don't have to cure everyone and only have to do their damndest to get paid, then teachers must be given that same status under your plan.

Mr Steve said...

Ken,

I particularly liked the bit about teachers as professionals. Clay Shirky has a bit about professionals early on in "Here Comes Everybody." I just threw a post together about it on my own. It's something that continually frustrates me.

I assume everyone saw the "If delivery people ran the world" "commercial from Sprint" during the Super Bowl.

I think one of the humor that underlies this is that schools don't run like efficient businesses and teachers are committed professionals.

To address the issue of parents giving their own neighborhood schools, or school where their child attends an good grade, I think we need to do a better job of educating parents. We need to bring the CSI Effect into education. Most parents assume that if school is like it was when they were students, then it's good enough. It worked for them, why shouldn't it work for their kids. Let's strip away the jargon, give the parents the tools to hold us accountable for giving these kids the best we can.

When an assignment comes home, how many parents know to ask for a scoring rubric that gives them a guide as to why this score on this assignment? How many parents know to ask to see one when the project is first assigned?

Doctors, lawyers, and dentists are held accountable because their customers have a clear expectation of what quality service should be: I feel better, justice was served, my teeth are clean, shiny, and don't hurt. For schools, not so much. Until we can give parents a simple, clear, and easy to understand expectation of what school SHOULD be doing, until they have the tools to hold schools accountable, a market based model will not succeed. Instead we're going to keep chasing each other around the tree, bombarding each other with research and jargon, and leaving kids in the crossfire.

Dick Schutz said...

MD’s are backed up by the hospital system, nurses and paratechs, the pharmaceutical industry, the med-tech industry, and NIH.

Dentists are backed up by a comparable structure.

Lawyers fit in to a judicial system that has been evolving for thousands of years.

Each teacher cobbles his or her “bag of tricks.” Even if relieved of the top-down mandates, teachers would still be operating at a hunting and gathering level of sophistication. It’s a tribute to teachers and to kids that the enterprise functions as well as it does.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Ken): "Malcolm I thought Dick was referring back to the general welfare clause of the preamble of the Constitution and not necessarily questioning the basis of government."

Maybe so. This confusion between "is" and "ought" impairs thought. You may quote a maxim like "the Party is the vanguard of the proletariat", or "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whomsoever shall believeth in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life" and it will not change the behavior of politicians or add a minute to your life. In fact, substituting cliches for open-eyed analysis will make real solutions harder to find.

I still try to persuade politicians, and to persuade people to place less reliance on politicians, but more and more, I encourage parents to homeschool. The system is hopelessly corrupt and most politicians like it that way.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Complete the syllogism:...

If politicians are well-intentioned, they will do X.

They do not do X.

Therefore....?

Parry Graham said...

I like Mr. Steve's point. The whole notion of "choice" in education is undermined if the consumers (parents) don't have an accurate sense of the quality of the product.

If I buy a jar of spaghetti sauce and it tastes horrible, I don't buy it again. If I buy a different jar and it tastes great, I buy more of the same. Multiplied by millions of spaghetti-jar-purchasers, and market forces lead to better and cheaper spaghetti sauce over time.

But if my taste buds are numb, I can't distinguish between the good spaghetti and the not-so-good spaghetti. How sharp are parents' taste buds when it comes to high-quality instruction?

Parry

KDeRosa said...

Dick, I'm not overlooking that non-instructional nonsense. We're paying for it already, no need to cut it until there's a call to cut it. That won't come any time soon.

You're right that there's not always a need for a human instructor. That should certainly be an option as should instruction provided by a parent. These are merely funding issues.

I also don't see a problem with a teacher acting as manager with non-teachers providing the actual instruction. This might, for example, be one way to reduce class size for those parents who want small class sizes within funding constraints.

KDeRosa said...

Mr. McNamar,

I'm giving teachers the ability to screen and choose the students they believe in their professional judgment they can teach. Doctors don't have this option.

As a result, there will be some kids that no teacher wants to take. I'll deal with that in the next post.

KDeRosa said...

Mr. Steve and Parry,

Although I haven't specified it yet, for a competitive system like the one I'm proposing to improve instruction, the system would have to be transparent and the all the data collected would be made public so that comparisons could be made.

Otherwise, the system will merely give parents want they want, which would be an improvement, but as has been indicated will not necessarily serve to improve instruction or outcomes since parents won't know how to judge quality.

Dick Schutz said...

Ken says: "I'm not overlooking that non-instructional nonsense."

Nonsense? If you don't want public schools to provide these services, how do you propose they be provided?

Just take school athletics (which is the least of the services)

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

The theory that parents are not competent to select schools is fundamentally undemocratic. Normal people are not automotive engineers, yet competitive markets generated the modern automobile. People are not MDs, microbiologists, or physiologists, yet they competently select their own physicians.

If parents cannot competently select their children's schools, how can they competently select the politicians who select the processes which determine their children's schools?

Expertise may be important, but it's important that experts not choose the experts.

In Germany, schools do not provide organized sports. Youth soccer teams are community affairs.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't want public schools to provide these services, how do you propose they be provided?

Just take school athletics (which is the least of the services)...
"

Isn't this the easy case? Baseball is currently offered by Little League (and Pony League in many cities).

Soccer is provided by AYSO.

Pop Warner does football.

Most minor sports are also offered by non-school organizations (and often only offered by them ... most schools don't offer archery, as an example).

-Mark Roulo

Dick Schutz said...

Hey, Malcolm and Mark. Let's get real.

Parents are certainly competent to select schools. Most select the one their kid is going to now. But the point is that if they select a different school it will not be much different. The differences will be in terms of the selection of school personnel and student body.

Since the achievement tests used are sensitive only to SES, not to differences in instruction, schools with the highest SES show up best on the tests. That's undemocratic. "Maarket force" is empty rhetoric.

I'd personally vote to professionalize all organized sports. The "sports clubs" could be within the schools just as other "clubs" are, but they would not have to be subsidized with taxpayer money.

Now that would create a real market. But what chance do you see of that happening?

Certainly many kids and some parents would choose "sports schools" over "instructional schools"

In my view, parents certainly should have the final choice (and responsibility) for their kids. But the public and our government have responsibility for making the choices real and in the best interest of all, not only for now, but for the future.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Schultz): "(I)f (parents) select a different school it will not be much different. The differences will be in terms of the selection of school personnel and student body."

This illustrates one large advantage of school choice. People think in term of the models with which they are familiar. The State-monopoly school system imposes one dominant model which limits the imagination of what "school" or education could be. One large cost of the current system is the opportunity cost of lost innovation in education processes. To say that schools in a voucher-subsidized market would resemble current State-monopoly schools is to neglect the accumulation of incremental advantages possible (inevitable, really) in an evolving competitive environment.

(Schultz): "...(T)he achievement tests used are sensitive only to SES, not to differences in instruction..."

This is flat false. See Chubb and Moe.

(Schultz): "...schools with the highest SES show up best on the tests. That's undemocratic."

Please explain. Unless material inequality is ipso facto "undemocratic" I do not see this. Nearly everything good is correlated with wealth. Wealth confers options. Longevity is correlated with wealth. The speed of your car is correlated with wealth (compare Mercedez-Benz with Ford or the Ford GT-40 to the Ford mustang). So what? How is this "undemocratic"?

(Schultz): "...'Maarket force' is empty rhetoric."

False again. See Herman Brutsaert's study of differences between government schools and Catholic schools in Belgium. See Angrist, et. al. on the Columbian voucher lottery experiment.

Dick Schutz said...

I've read the lit you cite, Malcolm but there's nothing to be gained by tis-taint arguing here. And it doesn't impinge on Ken's "Reboot II"

Are you at all aware of what the "evolution of the free market" did to the global economy?

The relationship of standardized achievement tests results to difference in SES and their insensitivity to instructional differences is well-established. I've tried to explain elsewhere why this comes about, and I've submitted a testable alternative with supporting empirical information.

The details of all that aren't relevant to this thread either, but the general point is quite pertinent, both to "Reboot" and to "Five Ponies."

Brian Rude said...

Ken,
Before I add my two bits to the drubbing you're taking, I will say that your post is very good in one way. It helps us break out of the prison of our own culture and expectations. A comparison to health care is apt. American education may have its faults, but compared to American health care it is a shining beacon of effectiveness and rationality. I have long argued that connecting a person's health care to employment is bizarre. It makes no sense and it is highly destructive. Yet in many discussions of healthcare and what should be changed, it is taken as a given. We inherited the idea from the World War II era, when, according to my understanding, it got a big boost as companies tried to attract labor but were prevented by wage and price controls from offering more money. Now the employer connection to health care is conventional wisdom, and an albatross of monumental dead weight.

I happen to think there is no corresponding albatross of that magnitude in our educational system. But your post does make me realize that my perspective is very limited. There are indeed other ways of conceiving of the delivery of education. We will greatly profit, in the long run, by thinking outside the box, as you are doing.

For my part of the communal drubbing, I'll just say "You're dreaming, Ken", and leave it at that.

But here's another point I think worth considering. If indeed we ought to change to some totally different idea of education and schooling, what would be the first step? Cultures, and cultural expectations, do not change by revolution, normally, they change by evolution. Rather than advocating a big change, it usually is much more productive to promote one little change at a time. I think welfare, as we knew it, would be an example of this. President Johnson, I believe, indeed did have big ideas of a welfare state, but he accomplished those big ideas one small step at a time. At least I think that's what happened. And then sometime in the seventies or eighties, or even nineties, the country realized we had a really huge welfare problem, and it was finally changed in 1996.

We can certainly hope that education in America would not be changed only to become a bigger problem, as the welfare state did, but that bad experience should not turn us against any change in education. If we are to get big fundamental changes in the way education is done in this country, then it seems to me that it would come about in little steps. We cannot "reboot", but we can advocate one change at a time. What should that first step be?

It seems to me that if we want to move to a system somewhat as you suggest (and I'm far from convinced), a logical first step would be to expand vouchers. Do you favor vouchers? Is there any other logical first step in getting where you'd like to go?

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Schultz): "The relationship of standardized achievement tests results to difference in SES and their insensitivity to instructional differences is well-established."

The coefficients of correlation between student performance on standardized tests of Reading, Science, and Math, on the one hand, and parent SES, on the other, are strong. That is well established. That students' standardized test scores do not also correlate with instructional variables is flat false.

(Schultz): "...achievement tests used are sensitive only to SES, not to differences in instruction..." (italics mine). Brutsaert, Chubb and Moe, Lockheed and Jimenez, Lassibile and Gomez, Angrist, et. al., say otherwise.

(Schultz): "I've tried to explain elsewhere why this comes about, and I've submitted a testable alternative with supporting empirical information."

I recall that some people with evident expertise disagreed.

(Schultz): "Are you at all aware of what the "evolution of the free market" did to the global economy?"

Are you aware that you must agree with me?

The Earth's solar energy budget is not a policy variable. Policy makers cannot influence it. The Earth's mass and distribution of atomic species are not policy variables. Human nature (including "greed") is not a policy variable. Government policymakers can use the tools of the State (violence and threats of violence) to shape the incentives which people face. What we call "the free market" is a minimal resort to violence as an organizing principle. The alternative, the command economy, relies on violence and threats of violence. "The world economy" is in trouble for two large reasons: politicians everywhere made more promises than they can keep (think: Social Security, Medicare, public-sector pensions), and (more immediately) political manipulation of the US mortgage market, forcing banks to make bad loans to poor risk buyers.

They will disguise a default on their promises with inflation, but that's a topic for a different post, on a different blog.

Parry Graham said...

"One large cost of the current system is the opportunity cost of lost innovation in education processes. To say that schools in a voucher-subsidized market would resemble current State-monopoly schools is to neglect the accumulation of incremental advantages possible (inevitable, really) in an evolving competitive environment."

Private schools throughout the country have existed in a competitive environment for decades, and yet the core aspects of a private-school education are almost identical to that of a public-school education. The only real exception is online education, which is still in a nascent stage and is frequently incorporated into public school offerings.

What makes you think a voucher-subsidized market would have a significant impact on innovative processes in education when no similar process has occurred within the private school system?

Parry

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "What makes you think a voucher-subsidized market would have a significant impact on innovative processes in education when no similar process has occurred within the private school system?"

Scale. So far, US voucher programs have enrolled few students, and independent/parochial schools in the US have enrolled less than 20% of students in any State. People understand "school" to mean the dominant model. Textbook publishers address their designs to that model. Universities address their entrance criteria (think "Carnegie units") to that model.

Dick Schutz said...

Point well taken, Parry.

Brian asks: "Is there any other logical first step in getting where you'd like to go?"

A paper, "Remodeling Schooling: A New Architecture for Preschool to Precollege Instruction" is consistent with your general direction.

http://ssrn.com/author=1199505

The thing about "vouchers" is much tha same as Parry's point re "private schools" Many districts have "open enrollment" which functionally amounts to the choice offered by vouchers. And many LEAs are so homogeneous --for either richer or poorer--that a "voucher" doesn't provide any functional choice.

Rather than focus on "vouchers," focus on the categorical restricts of federal financing of education that cripples choice and funding equity among states and within states warrants greater attention. There real marginal changes would have consequential effects.

Vouchers (and charters) are about nothing more than political and economic control.

Anonymous said...

"People understand "school" to mean the dominant model."

What model do you have in mind, Malcolm?

What time frame and steps will be involved to convert the US, where a good percentage of the population is directly involved with or has a relative involved with the public education enterprise.

Congress showed no interest in this during the Bush administration, and the pendulum today is swinging to "regulation."

And say by some wave of the wand, we had vouchers today. How long will it take for the "scale" to do something--anything?

Dick Schutz said...

"People understand "school" to mean the dominant model."

What model do you have in mind, Malcolm?

What time frame and steps will be involved to convert the US, where a good percentage of the population is directly involved with or has a relative involved with the public education enterprise.

Congress showed no interest in this during the Bush administration, and the pendulum today is swinging to "regulation."

And say by some wave of the wand, we had vouchers today. How long will it take for the "scale" to do something--anything?

Dick Schutz said...

Ooops. Sorry. I didn't mean to post twice for emphasis. I got tangled uo in "typing the characters"

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Schultz): "Vouchers (and charters) are about nothing more than political and economic control."

True, in a sense. Tuition vouchers give to individual parents the power to determine for their own children which institution shall receive the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy. Opposition to vouchers originates in the desire by system insiders to maintain their control over the US taxpayers' $500 billion+ per year K-12 education subsidy.

(Malcolm): "People understand 'school' to mean the dominant model."
(Schultz): "What model do you have in mind, Malcolm?"

The 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. M-F, 180-days per year, full-service Math+ Science+English+History+Art+Shop+ P.E. instittution. Why not on-the-job training? Why not boutique schools for individual subjects? Why not separate instruction from grading (it's a clear conflict of interest for teachers to grade their own students)?

(Schultz): "What time frame and steps will be involved to convert the US, where a good percentage of the population is directly involved with or has a relative involved with the public education enterprise."

That's a question for someone with political expertise which I do not have.

(Schultz): "Congress showed no interest in this during the Bush administration, and the pendulum today is swinging to 'regulation'."

Considering what a botch they made of entitlement reform (prescription drugs and Social Security), I guess I should be thankful they did not even try.

The Constitution gives the Federal government no authority to intrude into the education industry. The Executive branch exercises legitimate authority over four K-12 school systems: the Washington, D.C. schools, the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, the US DOD schools (for military dependents overseas) and the US Embassy schools. All the President has to do to inject competition into the US education industry is to
1) require that these schools develop a sequence of exams for every course required for graduation
2) require that these schools license independent organizations to administer these exams to anyone who wants to put this credit on his/her transcript.
3) requre that these schools grant diplomas to any student who accumulates sufficient credits
4) require that US government agencies accept transcripts gained through this process.

Let competition between the Kumon institute, Sylvan Learning Centers, and the University of Phoenix drive the cost of a high school diploma down to the cost of books and of proctoring exams.

A similar policy would work for post-secondary education. The Executive branch exercises legitimate authority over four post-secondary schools: the Air Force Academy at Boulder, Colorado, the US Maritime Academy at King's Point, New Yory, The US Military Academy at West Point, New York, and the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

But then, as I wrote earlier:
"Complete the syllogism:...

If politicians are well-intentioned, they will do X.

They do not do X.

Therefore....?"

Parry Graham said...

Scale? Doesn’t pass my sniff test.

For decades, private schools have operated in one of the most competitive environments imaginable: they are essentially competing with “free”. If they can’t create innovative improvements on the traditional model in that time period with the number of students with whom they’ve worked in the most competitive environment imaginable, what makes you think adding some more students into the mix will suddenly tip the scales (no pun intended)? You mention some possible alternatives to the “traditional schooling” model, such as on-the-job training and boutique schools for individual subjects. If these are truly viable alternatives to the traditional model, my bet is someone would have made them work in a private school environment in the last 50 years. The fact that no one has suggests to me that they’re not truly viable alternatives.

I think the issue lies in two areas. First, for a competitive market to work effectively and efficiently, consumers need to be well-informed. You said that “The theory that parents are not competent to select schools is fundamentally undemocratic”. I’m not even sure what you mean by that. As both a teacher and administrator, I have worked with hundreds of parents who had no real clue whether or not their child was getting a good education, and they readily admitted that. Your analogy between the automobile market and the education market also doesn’t pass the sniff test. As a consumer, I can pretty easily tell when the car I’ve bought isn’t a good deal: it requires a lot in repairs, the trunk doesn’t store as much as I thought it would, my wife tells me “I wouldn’t be caught dead riding in that thing”. So I don’t buy the car again, which equals market pressure.

But judging quality of education is infinitely more complex. What’s my standard of evidence? My kid’s report card? Standardized test scores? The fact that my kid keeps getting in trouble in the cafeteria? That the teacher won’t return my e-mails? It is significantly more difficult to judge whether or not a child is getting a good education than it is to judge whether or not I bought a good car, or whether or not the drug my doctor prescribed cured my ailment. That’s not undemocratic, that’s just true.

The second issue is that the core “technology” of education is the curricular, assessment, and instructional decision-making of the individual teacher. Plenty of factors can impact that core technology—the quality of the school’s curriculum, class size, leadership and support in the school—but those factors only have a marginal impact. And that core technology is going to be the same in a traditional public school, a charter school, or a private school. Vouchers don’t change that. In the automotive industry and in health care, individual human decision-making isn’t the core technology in the same way. You have advancements in robotics and assembly line manufacturing, genetic research, etc. Those advancements allow for disruptive innovations in those industries. That same level of innovation isn’t possible when your core technology remains the same.

Parry

Dick Schutz said...

'The second issue is that the core “technology” of education is the curricular, assessment, and instructional decision-making of the individual teacher.'

That nails the issue, Parry. That's where the core technology lies. But it's a flimsy technology at best. And it's buried in a daunting overhead of unaccountability with conflicting, largely mindless mandates--with no feedback mechanisms for self correction.

I know of no other sector where the "buck starts at the bottom." I attribute the situation to the history of moving up from a "one room schoolhouse." But that era is long gone. All elements of the enterprise above the school level have abrogated responsibility.

President Obama in his address called on parents, kids and teachers to shoulder responsibility as a patriotic duty. B,b,but what about everyone everyone else?

Dick Schutz said...

Malcolm says: "The Executive branch exercises legitimate authority over four K-12 school systems: the Washington, D.C. schools, the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools, the US DOD schools (for military dependents overseas) and the US Embassy schools."

True. What you leave out is that the Constitution doesn't designate the President the "Superintendent in Chief" to go along with his "Commander in Chief" status. That makes all the difference.

"If politicians are well-intentioned, they will do X."

X = THE BEST THE CAN

SOME do not do X.

Therefore....? OTHERS SHOULD BE ELECTED.

That's what the US Constitution says (better), doesn't it?

RMD said...

Brian said:

"I have long argued that connecting a person's health care to employment is bizarre."

And I would argue that if you can't pay for health care, why should someone else?

Perhaps we could argue for youth care, so that we have kids who still have teeth at 21. But when people are adults, we need to start paying our own way through productive work.

I could argue that healthcare is wildly expensive because the government is involved.

Food for thought.

Dick Schutz said...

To bring some reality to the dialog, take a look at an article flagged by Alexander Russo on what is happening financially in one state:

www.santacruzsentinel.com
/ci_11970173

Local school district funding is a complex mix derived from local tax, (usually) county tax, state tax, and categorical federal grants. El-hi education accounts for the largest segment of state and local government expenditures.

With huge financial shortfalls at both state and local levels, in one way or another el-hi education will inevitably take a financial hit.

There will be blood. And we ain't seen nuthin yet. The education "stimulus" doesn't even amount to a "tourniquet."

The compensating news is that the productivity of the el-hi enterprise can be increased at reduced cost. But doing so will require injecting some accountability and responsibility in the presently unaccountables beyond individual teachers.

The blood sport will be interesting and it could be beneficial.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Parry,

You make a decent point about competition between independent or parochial schools. Why does not competition between them (and between them and the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools) generate evolutionary improvement?

I believe that two factors explain this:
1) as the man running from the bear said to his buddy "I only have to run faster than you",
2) not only does the State-school monopoly cause people to think in terms of the current model (as you illustrate at length in the rest of your last comment), it employs a swarm of people who lobby for legislation which supports this model. Compulsory attendance laws, child labor laws, and minimum wage laws put on-the-job training out of reach for most students for most occupations.

You argue that the "core technology" in the K-12 education industry will never change. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you assert that the education of a large fraction of the 6-18 year old population must inevitably include school, and school must inevitably feature teachers and students in classrooms.

We disagree.

Richard Arkwright, Cyrus McCormick, Thomas Edison, Mary Putman Jacobi, Bertrand Russell, and Yehudi Menuhin were homeschooled.

In comments to other posts I have previously recommended that you read this one page Marvin Minsky comment on school and this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie.

My professors in the UH College of Education often told their classes that classes were nowhere; that hands-on experience better promoted learning. If they saw the irony of their situation, instructing a classroom of seated students, they gave no indication.

"Virtual school" may soon demonstrate that, for many students, education does not require classrooms. Ken Burns ("The Civil War", "Jazz", "Baseball") probably taught more US History, to more students, than any other teacher who ever lived. Without classrooms.

"...It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it. Children whose days are spent herding animals rather than sitting in a clasroom at least develop skills of problem solving and independence while the supposedly luckier ones in school are stunted in their mental, physical, and emotional development by being rendered pasive, and by having to spend hours each day in a crowded classroom under the control of an adult who punishes them for any normal level of activity such as moving or speaking. (DfID, 2000, pp 12, 13)" Quoted in Clive Harber, "Schooling as Violence", p. 10, __Educatioinal Review__, V. 54, #1.

Parry Graham said...

Malcolm,

Thanks for your response. I wanted to point out that I did not say that the core technology in education will never change. I said that the core technology is currently the same across traditional public schools, charter schools, and private schools, and that a high level of innovation is not possible if the core technology does not change. Clayton Christensen has an interesting take on this idea.

In reference to the two articles you mention, I have read them every time you have mentioned them, and I am neither impressed nor persuaded by either. They simply offer two people’s opinions, backed up by nothing more than references to a collection of exceptional individuals from the last 150 years who were capable of outstanding careers without the experience of a traditional education. I fail to see what supportive evidence they provide for the points you make.

In addition, you write “Correct me if I'm wrong, but you assert that the education of a large fraction of the 6-18 year old population must inevitably include school, and school must inevitably feature teachers and students in classrooms.” At the current time, I believe this phrase holds. Going forward, who knows. I think our common ground is a belief that advances in educational technology could redefine what K-12 education looks like in the future.

Finally, I can’t figure out what you intend by your final quote. Do you agree with the statement that “It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it”? Do you honestly believe that our country would fare better if schools closed down? Are there any examples of developed nations that have eliminated compulsory school attendance laws and seen their societies improve? Do you honestly believe that most parents would choose to not send their children to school?

I know we’ve been around this mulberry bush before, but I just can’t make sense out of your line of thought.

Parry

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

(Parry): "...(T)he core “technology” of education is the curricular, assessment, and instructional decision-making of the individual teacher...that core technology is going to be the same in a traditional public school, a charter school, or a private school. Vouchers don’t change that."

We disagree. First, I do not believe children need "teachers" other than a parent or a craft master to whom they can apprentice. If students want to pursue an academic career, a tutorial system would work, once they can read on their own. Self-paced, self-selected curricula on computers could replace teachers with professional expertise. Maybe all you need is supportive parents and a reference librarian, for academically-inclined children.

Second, scale matters. As the industry evolves, parents empowered with tuition vouchers will have money to spend, and organizations will refine the methods they use to match curricula to students. Currently, students march in age-segregated cohorts through a uniform curriculum. The system operates ths way purely for administrative convenience. This I see this as a serious defect of the current system.

We disagree that the links provide "simply...two people's opinions". First, these are two highly-educated people's opinions. Second, perhaps the people studied in the McCurdy paperto which Dr. Minsky refers were exceptional because of their experience of parent attention and isolation. That's Minsky's implication, anyway. Minsky's point about the iterative, infantalizing effects of age-segregation is more than "opinion".

(Parry): "Do you agree with the statement that “It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it”?

Yes.

(Parry): "Do you honestly believe that our country would fare better if schools closed down?"

I believe that society as a whole would benefit from an end to tax subsidization of education and from a repeal of compulsory attendance laws, minimum wage laws, and child labor laws. I have no problem with parents hiring tutors or signing their kids into karate classes, larguage classes, ballet classes, or even full-service Math+Science+Socialstudies+English+P.E.+Art "schools". I have a large problem with compulsion.

(Parry): "Are there any examples of developed nations that have eliminated compulsory school attendance laws and seen their societies improve?"

We have examples of incremental improvement with reductions in the level of compulsion.

(Parry): "Do you honestly believe that most parents would choose to not send their children to school?"

The options which parents would select in an uncoerced environment would produce a more productive, happier, less violent successor generation that the current State-monopoly system produces. Taxpayers get nothing from the State-monopoly school system that they would not get from an unsubsidized market in education services except drug abuse, vandalism, and violence.

Parry Graham said...

Malcolm,

Everything else aside, I do find it somewhat ironic that, in defending the opinions of the two authors you cite, you note that they are both "highly educated", given that the whole thrust of your argument is against formalized education.

Parry

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

Parry,

"Well educated" does not mean "expensively schooled".

Tracy W said...

Ken, my problem with the contractual approach is all the variation in individual outcomes.
I missed a chunk of my 1st form year (roughly age 11) because of medical problems. This did no harm to my education but I suspect only because we didn't actually need to cover much that was important at school ages 11 and 12.

But these things do throw around educational outcomes and are beyond the teachers' control. But teachers can control how they react to such medical problems, there is a big difference say between a school that sends a kid who missed 6 weeks to a class who is at where the kid left, and one who sends them back to the same class they left from.
How does your reboot account for such disruptions?
Or for less obvious ones, like the loss of a parent, or a violent event near the school like a shooting, which would easily upset a kid, but a good teacher should still be able to teach them anyway?

KDeRosa said...

Details, details, details, Tracy.

But seriously, one way or another the child has to somehow do enough learning, either in school or at home, to keep up.

The real problem is with extended absences from school. (A series of spaced one day absences is easier to handle since the teacher generally repeats topics to account for such absences.) Somehow the child has to make up the work.

And, I would think that since the teacher would rather get paid for instructing the student rather than drop the student, they'll attempt to do so if it's feasible.

Basically, these special circumstances should be handled on a case by case basis like they are today.

Tracy W said...

Ken - the more I learn about education the more I think it's like medicine or engineering - the details are vital.

Dick Schutz said...

"the more I learn about education the more I think it's like medicine or engineering - the details are vital."

Hey, Here's something we can agree upon, Tracy.

Both engineering and medicine are focused on outcomes and seek reliability in performing a function or achieving a cure. Neither looks kindly on rhetoric.

El-hi educationists largely come from backgrounds in the social sciences and humanities, and the public also views the enterprise from these perspectives.

Rhetoric and ideology rules, even slopping over into technical matters of finance and measurement, which are "clean" in most every other sector.

The el-hi enterprise (in the US)
is the "one-room schoolhouse" writ large. It busted out of that box 50 years ago with the quantitative achievement of "universal high school enrollment." But it has yet to get the qualitative handle on schooling that the "school marm" and the "board of education" had.

Tracy W said...

Well I was thinking that education is like engineering or medicine in that they are all complex processes where one thing going wrong can cause everything else to fail. The doctor can diagnose the illness correctly and prescribe the best treatment, the hospital can be perfectly clean and infection-free, but if the pharmacist accidentally puts the wrong medicine in the bottle and no one notices, the patient's almost certainly going to have problems. It doesn't matter how beautifully you designed your circuit and how good the materials you used to build it were, if there's a dry joint in there you are going to get weird stuff happening. (A dry joint is when the solder connecting an electrical component to the circuitboard doesn't bond properly, so the electrical connection is fragile). And in teaching, the teacher can be superb, the curriculum can be superb, the standardised tests can be superb, but if the teacher's being interrupted once every ten minutes during classtime by the school administration learning is going to hurt.

It sounds like that for teaching to be really effective the school has to get a lot of things right.

Dick Schutz said...

Well, it turns out the agreement was illusory.

"if the teacher's being interrupted once every ten minutes during classtime by the school administration learning is going to hurt."

That's not a very good example of the complexity that has to be dealt with in instruction.

Interruptions, of course, are not a good thing, but teachers and kids can adapt to them just as people adapt to interruptions in other situations.

What one has to "get right," just as in engineering and medicine is the product/protocol for the instruction. As with any developed system, it should be as robust as possible with fail safe provisions, but there will always be operator errors and unforeseen external events that are not controllable. But these glitches typically transparent and they are exceptions rather than the rule. So the source of the anomaly can be traced.

Tracy W said...

Well, it turns out the agreement was illusory.

That's cool - we can learn more from disagreements than agreements.

That's not a very good example of the complexity that has to be dealt with in instruction.

It wasn't intended to be. It was intended to be an example of how lots of things can be doing right, and yet one other detail can wreck it. Teachers and students may be able to adapt to interruptions, but I am not merely interested in adaption, I am interested in the effectiveness of learning. That's why I phrased my wording as "learning is going to hurt".

palisadesk said...

On a similar theme, see this essay by Sandra Stotsky:
The Negative Influence of Education Schools on the K-12 Curriculum

Dick Schutz said...

Sandra Stotsky and others have done a good job with reporting what aggregate teacher ed colleges do and don't teach. The thing is, the journal articles "have no legs."

And even if the teacher ed institutions were folded (which won't happen) that wouldn't end the "negative influence." The "accreditation" agencies for teacher ed colleges and for high schools in the US are products of the same complex. They too have a "negative influence."

And the "professional associations," such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics are peas in the same pod. The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has historically championed these orientations.Even the American Educational Research Association has come to be dominated by constructivist and social justice orientations. Throw in many personnel in State Departments of Education and LEAs.

The remarkable thing is that despite the deadwood at the top, and the inadvertent mis-intruction at the bottom, the majority of kids do very well. That's nothing to brag about. Some kids would learn with no formal schooling and othere manage to cope despite the inadvertent mis-instruction. Schools take credit for this placebo effect, and no one examines the "treatment failures."

"Reformers" are occupied with bashing unions and school site personnel. Only in the el-hi enterprise does the buck start and stop at the bottom of the organizational structure.

The point that Sandy doesn't make is that its anachronistic to have an "approved reading list" for high school students. If WiseOnes were to focus on eliminating the "dumb things" schools are mandated to do--(the most obvious, starting to test kids in reading AFTER formal instruction in teaching kids how to read ENDS), we'd get a lot more "reform."