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The Subjects That Are Left Behind

Bye, bye social studies. Adios, science. School these days is all about reading and math. Okay, maybe not all, but it sure seems that way.

According to a Center on Education Policy report released this week examining school subjects since the beginning of the 'No Child Left Behind Act,' 36 percent of school districts surveyed cut elementary school class time for social studies in the past five years and 28 percent reduced time for science. The other things trimmed: lunch (20 percent of schools); art and music (16 percent); physical education (9 percent) and recess (5 percent).

In a Jay Mathews story in The Post, Paula Keyes Kun, spokesman for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education said, "We are delighted that we are still very much a part of the school day."

So are we, Ms. Kun, so are we. In fact, Mathews piece also points out that "many parents in the Washington area have resisted further decreases in recess and physical education times, which were significantly reduced in the years before No Child Left Behind."

School systems argue that social studies and science get absorbed into the reading and math lessons. Is this what you see in your kids? Do you think they are well-rounded by public schools or are the schools leaving them deficient in some areas? Do you feel like you need to provide your kids with more art, music, science and sports opportunities than schools provide?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 27, 2007; 6:22 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Teens , Tweens
Previous: Look Inside, Girls | Next: What a Chore!

Comments


I usually do not post, but the lack of diversity in subjects taught in public schools is yet another reason why I am choosing to homeschool my kids.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 7:03 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, no one will know what the impact of these changes in education will mean down the road. What will this generation look like 20 years from now? Will we be looking at a workforce of robot-like workers that can't think independently, can't work on a team? When I hire people, I look at much more than what their grade point average is, and how they scored on a test. I fear our govt and educators are very short-sighted - sacrificing what is best for our children for some experiment in how to best raise test scores.

Posted by: jj | July 27, 2007 7:38 AM | Report abuse

This is why my kids are in private school. They incorporate reading and math lessons in the science and social studies classes. They have frequent art, music, foreign language and physical education lessons. And they still have plenty of time to eat lunch and have recess. Their academic day is longer and they rarely have days off for teacher meetings and such - only one a semester.

Posted by: MDMom | July 27, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse

MDMom
"This is why my kids are in private school. They incorporate reading and math lessons in the science and social studies classes. They have frequent art, music, foreign language and physical education lessons. And they still have plenty of time to eat lunch and have recess. Their academic day is longer and they rarely have days off for teacher meetings and such - only one a semester"

What she said.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I find that my daughter's school does do a good job incorporating science and social studies into the reading and math curriculums. In addition, they do have designated class time each day to teach those subjects on their own. They also have art and music once a week. I do wish they had PE more often. Once a week is not enough, in my view. Recess is a half-hour and I think that would be ok if the kids had PE daily. I'd even be happy with every other day. I think it would help a lot with fostering healthy living for kids and would allow the kids to blow off steam from the hard work they are putting in with those math and reading skills. I'm not, however, willing to fork over $12-20,000 for private school to get that.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | July 27, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

This is why we're considering private schooling for our children. Not saying we'll definitely do it, but it's under discussion. Very sad. I am a product of public education all the way, and I believe in the concept of public schooling, but thanks to NCLB and a host of other issues, I'm no longer sure that a child can be properly educated in a well-rounded manner in public schools.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | July 27, 2007 8:29 AM | Report abuse

PT Fed Mof2

"I'm not, however, willing to fork over $12-20,000 for private school to get that."

I am. There is no make-up class for a whole childhood. It's a one-shot deal.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 8:30 AM | Report abuse

to anonymous at 8:30 - please be aware that not everyone is able to afford to fork over that kind of money for private school, no matter how much we may want to. Its not always a question of whether we want to or not...

Posted by: jj | July 27, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm not a big fan of NCLB, but I don't know another way in which we can ensure that the most vulnerable amongst us are getting the minimum education they need and are entitled to. In more affulent and educated districts, the parents ensure that the schools are doing what they need to do. What about those kids in SE whose parents lack either the education, will or time to participate in their schools? How do we measure their progess w/o something to compare it to?

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 8:36 AM | Report abuse

Moxie mom - you make a good point, but what worries me is that we are measuring progress in only two areas - math and reading. I believe that every child should be exposed to much more than that.

Posted by: jj | July 27, 2007 8:40 AM | Report abuse

jj - I agree with you, but I can't think of a better way to do it. I'd love to hear from education people or statistics folks.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, jj. Most middle income families can't afford private school, no matter how much they'd prefer it. I went to public school back in the 'Dark Ages' -- graduated high school in 1964. Free public school is all we knew and school lunches cost 25 cents. We had a pretty well-rounded education with science, math, social studies, English, geography, POD (Problems of Democracy), business courses. Chemistry, algebra and a foreign language were only available to those headed to college. Electives were home ec, shop for the boys, journalism, art, gym (which I absolutely hated and never took it after junior high when it was required). My only gripe was that only girls could take home ec and only boys could take auto shop. It would have been great to take auto shop and now I wouldn't have to pay an arm and a leg to get my car serviced. However, when it comes to cooking, if you can read you can cook. No big mystery about that.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:04 AM | Report abuse

jj - I agree with you, but I can't think of a better way to do it. I'd love to hear from education people or statistics folks.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 09:03 AM

Well, you'll have to search long and hard to find even one educator who supports NCLB.

I definitely agree with the other posters that the schools have it exactly backwards. I'd much rather have a History teacher critiquing my kids' writing than an English teacher trying to teach History.

Posted by: Bob | July 27, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

There are private schools that do not cost $12,000 to $20,000 per year. The school we chose for our kids is just under $5,000 per year and the tuition is payable in 10 installments.

We chose the school for all of the reasons that MDMom mentioned.

Posted by: Mom2LED | July 27, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

To 8:30 - "there's no make-up for a whole childhood"

I don't think you really got the intent of my post. If I truly thought my daughter's public school was lacking in a lot of areas and could afford it I would send her to private school. In my view, the school is doing a very good job integrating social studies and science both as stand-alone subjects and in conjunction with the reading and math. I am happy with the art and music as well. And, I love the fact that she goes to her neighborhood school with all her friends in the neighborhood. It has really built a sense of community for us.

The only area where I think the school is lacking is on PE. For me, on a cost-benefit analysis, it is not worth the expense of private school for that. She plays on a soccer team, does gymnastics and is a very active child. I really don't think any school is perfect and they are have some short-comings. With regard to this short-coming I think I can make-up up for it in our home activities. If it were something else I might make a different decision. That is what I meant.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | July 27, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I guess our experiences are different from most people on this blog. Our daughters go to Howard County public schools; our son went there through 8th grade and is now in an all-boys Catholic high school.

The curricula are comparable. In fact, the public schools, being larger, offer much more in the way of class choice. The kids in public schools have much greater choices in foreign languages, music, different levels of math, different English electives, more advanced science classes, etc. etc. etc.

The one curriculum offering DS gets that the girls don't is Religion class, which over the course of four years focuses on a good understanding of not only Catholicism but also Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and several other eastern religions.

(Oh, and the Catholic schools do a much better job of explaining evolution. :-)

(The main difference is class size - DS's classes run 15-20 kids, while the public schools average 30 or more. DS goes to the private school because he needs the smaller classes & individual attention; he tends to get lost in bigger classes. The girls, however, do just fine in the bigger classes and they have no interest in private schools.)

Posted by: Army Brat | July 27, 2007 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Momof2LED: Even $5000 is out of reach for a lot of families living on a shoestring. We all aren't corporate families pulling down big salaries, double incomes, whatever. Paying for private school would mean cutting way back on things like food, utilities, clothes, housing, doctor visits. Some of us can't have it all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

"School systems argue that social studies and science gets absorbed into....." Where were you when they were teaching English grammar, Stacey?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

We are definitely a middle income family as are most of the families in my kids' private school. We pay around $10k for each kid. We do sacrifice for it. We have lived in the same small townhouse for 12 years now, we drive economic cars, etc. To my husband and I it is worth it for our kids to get what we think is a better educational experience. I am by no means against public education - my parents were teachers and my husband and I are products of public education. I simply do not ilke what it has become. I don't think children should be taught to pass a test. They should be taught to learn the material and if they have been taught well then they will succeed on the test.

Posted by: MDMom | July 27, 2007 9:37 AM | Report abuse

by Moxiemom at July 27, 2007 09:03 AM

"jj - I agree with you, but I can't think of a better way to do it. I'd love to hear from education people or statistics folks."

Speaking as an educator I can say a positive thing about NCLB, which is that it seriously jumpstarted the debate nationally on the educational results for lower income students, particularly black and latino students. The goals of NCLB are noble, but the methods are deeply flawed.

The first problem is that a test is only as good as its design. A one time picture of student performance in a subject is not a reliable indicator of that student's ability. What if they are sick? Or they've just broken up with their boyfriend/girlfriend? It skews the data. On top of that, even some of the best designed tests (Virginia's SOLs come to mind) can have poorly written questions and mostly test rote memorization rather than the skills they are supposed to. Multiple Choice tests are also notoriously easy to game.

So what these test are actually testing is how skilled child is at memorizing facts or test taking skills on a certain day. That does not equate to academic ability.

There are also the issues concerning making students who have learning disablities or do not speak English take the test. The data gathered doesn't tell me how they are doing academically. It tells me they have a learning disability or don't speak English.

Now, to the defense of the test, no one has devised the "perfect test" for any subject, let along one that can be graded quickly enough to produce the kind of results required. However, a more accurate test might feature some of the following things:

-more frequent tests
-shorter tests
-essay or short answer questions instead of multiple choice (for humanities subjects and sciences)
-bubble fields instead of multiple choice for math (these are already used partly on AP tests).
-more narrowly focused tests (this test will look at comma use, etc.)

The problem then becomes grading the tests, but then maybe we can have a national discussion on grading... something that we should probably have anyway.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Also Re: Private Schooling

I would say it depends on what the local public schools look like. Always important to remember that for the most part private schools and public schools statistically do about the same job with the same students. It is the selectivity of private schools that makes them seem good. The whole "Anyone could make an excellent school with these children" thing.

Also, check out charter schools. There are some very phenominal programs in that "mixed" area.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

to 9:30- At the school our children go to (and many others), tuition assistance is available to those who need it. It covers anywhere from 10 to 100 percent of the cost. The only point I want to make is that private school is not as far out of reach as many make it seem. If you are happy with the public school in your area that's great. If not, private school is an option.

Posted by: Mom2LED | July 27, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

MDMom

"To my husband and I it is worth it for our kids to get what we think is a better educational experience"

Oh, the irony! It should be "To my husband and ME"

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The problem with NCLB, well one of the problems, is that schools only focus on the kids who are on the bubble. Since they don't have to improve their test scores very much to get to the next bracket, that's where the schools can have the most impact on their overall scores. So those kids get most of the attention.

The top students don't get the attention they need because their test scores are already at the top. The bottom students don't get the attention they need because it will take too much effort for them to move to the next bracket. So the focus is on the students in the middle.

Posted by: Dennis | July 27, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"We all aren't corporate families pulling down big salaries, double incomes, whatever."

I worked nights cleaning office buildings to pay for my kid's school. So did a lot of other mothers. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:50 AM | Report abuse

"School systems argue that social studies and science gets absorbed into....." Where were you when they were teaching English grammar, Stacey?

Where were you when they taught manners. I understand what she is saying.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Apologies for my typo. It's been fixed.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | July 27, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

"School systems argue that social studies and science gets absorbed into....." Where were you when they were teaching English grammar, Stacey?"

"Where were you when they taught manners. I understand what she is saying."

What you understand amounts to bupkis. Grammar IS important!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 9:53 AM | Report abuse

I say we all ignore the grammar trolls. They all but ruin on balance some days.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

What you understand amounts to bupkis. Grammar IS important!


Well, it seems like the Washington Post thinks her grammar is just fine. I mean, she has a blog and you do not, so maybe you should shut up and go find another blog. Jealousy is unbecoming, even for trolls.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:04 AM | Report abuse

"I say we all ignore the grammar trolls"

The Subjects That Are Left Behind

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

We send our children to private school because we believe that a good private school will provide the best education possible and that is a priority for us. We are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but make just enough as not to qualify for financial aid.

We can afford private school by making choices - a more modest home, only one car, limiting expensive electronics (1 modest TV & DVD, basic cable, no video games, one computer shared by all, so on), we only by clothing that is on sale, we don't take expensive vactions, we only eat out occasionally, we take advantage of all the great free things in this city (museums, zoo, parks, libaries), no expensive hobbies, so on and so forth.

It's amazing how much we save by always being careful with our money. I don't go to Starbucks, I bring my lunch to work, I take the bus/metro and walk, I get books from the library. Lot's of little ways to save that add up.

I realize that I sound preachy and I know that there are many people who really cannot afford private school (of course, there is financial aid). On the other hand I see many of my friends and neighbors make excuses on how they just can't afford private school yet own nice late model gas guzzling SUVs/Minivan, take vacations to Disney, own big screen TVs w/ fancy sound systems and video games, play golf, buy their kids expensive toys and clothes, etc. This is fine. It is their choice - I just wish they would take ownership of this choice instead of assuming they can't afford private schools. Truthfully I think a lot of my friends just assume I make a lot more then I do.

Posted by: frugal | July 27, 2007 10:08 AM | Report abuse

I agree that it all depends on the school district as to whether or not the kids go to public or private school. If we lived in the district that I grew up in down South, I wouldn't even consider private school as the public schools were and are still excellent. The school district we are in now is terrible. Unfortunately, when we moved here, we weren't thinking about schools when we bought our home. We were simply looking at what we could afford at the time.

Posted by: MDMom | July 27, 2007 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for your insight Dave S. I know what is wrong with NCLB, but few people have suggestions on how to improve it! thanks for the food for thought. We need to think about what we owe to the underpriveliged in this country and remember how we all benefit from a well educated population. Proper education solves a lot of social problems.

We chose a private Montessori school for our children not because we felt the public school was academically lacking, but because we felt that the behavior at both public and other private institutions was not what we wanted our children exposed to. It is a financial sacrifice, but one that we feel is worth it.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

"I say we all ignore the grammar trolls"
The Subjects That Are Left Behind

You really need a hobby. A blog is not the place to teach people about grammar. I know you think you are far more superior to many of the people who post here, but why don't you try to join the "real" discussion instead of looking for ways to put people down. It's like you are perpetually trapped in 8th grade grammar.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

PT Fed Mof2

"I'm not, however, willing to fork over $12-20,000 for private school to get that."

I am. There is no make-up class for a whole childhood. It's a one-shot deal.

Posted by: | July 27, 2007 08:30 AM

to anonymous at 8:30 - please be aware that not everyone is able to afford to fork over that kind of money for private school, no matter how much we may want to. Its not always a question of whether we want to or not...

Posted by: jj | July 27, 2007 08:35 AM

No many, many hardworking people cannot afford private education.

On the other hand, if you can afford the new minivan every three years, are making two car payments, take a nice vacation each year as well as several holiday weekend trips, have been to Disney World, eat out three + times a week, pay for numerous sports camps and registrations, ballet, music lessons, etc., then pause and consider. Is it that you really can't afford $12,000 per year, or is it more true that, while you say education is important, you are unwilling to evaluate where your money is going and make education a budget priority at the expense of some of those other things? Most of the people on this blog could afford private education if they wanted to. They choose not to.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I worked nights cleaning office buildings to pay for my kid's school. So did a lot of other mothers. Where there's a will, there's a way.

_________________

Unless the public schools in your area are atrocious, I don't think that's a good trade-off. I think I'd rather be with my kids then working a 2nd job to send them to private school. Not saying what you did is wrong, you obviously calculated the trade-offs differently. Just saying that your way isn't necessarily the best way for everyone.

Posted by: Raia | July 27, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I consider it a civic responsibility to send my children to public schools. If the middle class pulls out you are leaving poor children with no large group to advocate for them and other public school children.

That said, -music, art, sports- are all things that my children do outside of school as well as in school. It's not so much that I think the schools don't offer enough in those areas as that I want my children to have private instruction.

I think reading, writing, math are so basic that focusing on them is essential. A person doesn't have much hope of holding down a decent job without those things. If our schools can not at least produce citizens who can hold down basic jobs -postal worker, clerk, machine operator- then why are we bothering with public education?

I'd also note that if I support my children in private lessons for music, art, sport I leave more resources from the public schools open for children whose parents can't afford those things.

Posted by: AnnR | July 27, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"You really need a hobby. A blog is not the place to teach people about grammar. I know you think you are far more superior to many of the people who post here, but why don't you try to join the "real" discussion instead of looking for ways to put people down. It's like you are perpetually trapped in 8th grade grammar."

It's like you are willing to lower standards for what?


Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Well, la de friggin' da--- I worked a full- time job and a part-time job 7 days a week to put myself through night school because it was something I wanted to do. My parents couldn't afford to send me to college. I did it on my own after leaving home. I paid for tuition in addition to paying for all living expenses: rent, food, second-hand Pinto, books, endless student fees, clothes from thrift shops.

If this is the WaPo, grammar, spelling and editing should be flawless. This left-wing rag brought down a Presidential administration -- it ought to be edited a little better. You people bloviating about your private edu-ma-cation are showing it isn't that great after all.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

My thing is that I feel that early childhood is exactly the time to stress social sciences and science. At this time, kids heads are ready to absorb anything and they're hungry to learn. Instead they sit them down at little desks and teach them to write in little, itty-biddy letters. You end up with turning them off to learning, especially the boys.

My youngest does have regular science and social science but I don't feel that it is done well. When my son got into high school and was blasted with some serious science courses, he had very little context as background. It isn't being well done.

As so PE and art --honestly, I'd rather pay people who know what they're doing to teach my kids in those areas. So I do have my kids in public school but I spend a bunch on good music teachers and athletic trainers. And this year we threw in a chemistry tutor which was very much worth the $$.

Posted by: free bird | July 27, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

It's like you are willing to lower standards for what?

You sentence makes no sense.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I went to public school in Northern Virginia from kindergarten until I graduated from high school in 2002. I had wonderful teachers, particularly in social studies. (Thank you Mr. Gillespie and Mrs. Lincicome!) I got an excellent education that enabled me to get into a top liberal arts college, and I will be beginning a M.A. program in Social Sciences (essentially an interdisciplinary degree in social studies) at the University of Chicago in the fall. I feel blessed that the SOLs only became a serious academic concern towards the end of my academic career. I have two younger siblings who go to the same schools I did, have many of the same teachers (although NCLB has caused some of the best ones to retire), and complain that they "aren't learning anything" because "we spend so much time preparing for the stupid [slang term for the SOLs that is not family-appropriate.] Luckily, my family's shared interest in political and historical affairs has rubbed off on my sister, but my brother just wants to do "whatever will make a lot of money." I have to wonder if NCLB robbed him of the chance to be truly inspired by a subject. He is one of the kids whose achievements are sufficiently above average that they can safely ignore him for testing purposes. The teachers still care, but they are left with few options. This is an example of a public school in an affluent area. I can only imagine what this is doing elsewhere. Math and reading are essential, but without an understanding of social studies, and increasingly, science, students cannot grow up to be informed citizens, which is supposed to be one of the fundamental purposes of public education.

Posted by: vim876 | July 27, 2007 10:37 AM | Report abuse

"You people bloviating about your private edu-ma-cation are showing it isn't that great after all."

And you've shown us who has class...

Water seeks its own level.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm curious as to how teaching reading necessarily precludes the teaching of other subjects. When a student reads, after all, they read about SOMETHING--not about reading itself, but often (at least in the younger grades) about some historical event/period or important discovery or famous person. If a student reads about these subjects, aren't they learning about social studies and science and etc.?

For example, when I was in middle school, my reading class did a unit on the Holocaust that involved reading not only memoirs written by Holocaust survivors, but also books/documents that taught us how the Great War and subsequent German economic crisis helped bring Hitler to power and led to the rise of the conditions that would allow the Holocaust to happen. It was a tremendously powerful history lesson even though it occured in a class called "Reading"; if schools are teaching reading to students in this manner, why not let them do it?

Posted by: recent MCPS grad | July 27, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

My kids go to a Catholic elementary school, and like others who have posted, my wife and I sacrifice big time to pay the tuition, but we think it is worth it.

Posted by: Steve | July 27, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

My daughter attended a title 1 elementary school in affluent Montgomery County. We actually celebrated when her school finally acheived title 1 status. We finally got much needed computers in evey class room and addtional ESOL instructors as well as more time with math and readin specialist all to achive the goal set by NCLB. My daughter received little or no science or social studies. I was shocked when I first entered the school and saw no globes or world maps (these are not part of the Elementary school curriculum.
When my daughter moved on to middle school and had to take social studies which inclued maps and geography, it was like running head first into a brick wall. Thankfully we travel a bit and have maps and globes at home but many of her frineds did not a suffered. They hated social studies. Partly because they had never seen it before and were at best unprepared. If we are to play a part in a world economy and grow up in diverse communities we cannot exclude social studies from the elementary curriculum.
Kids do need to see that they are part of a much larger picture. This holds true for Science too. These subjects can and should be brought back to the elementary schools. I feel even more for parents who have children in title 1 tier 2 schools. They get a small fraction of the funding and help that the title 1 tier 1 schools receive.

Posted by: RockvilleMom | July 27, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I know I live somewhere very different from many of you but I don't see the point as public vs. private. I see it as a neighborhood school or somewhere in a different community. I choose to have my kids in neighborhood schools. They are a part of a community. They go to school here, compete in sports here, participate in musical productions, etc. The community around our elementary school has a small-town feel to it. People know each other and look out for each other.

The people I know who have put their kids into private schools lose that. And in the case of those who put their kids into rich kid schools, there is definitely a class system. If there's a problem between a rich kid and a poor kid, the school will side with the rich kid. And what I've seen is a greater problem with drugs and alcohol. When there was an issue with drinking in my son's group, the info got to all of the parents and we provided an united front.

We do have an excellent public school system here though I agree that we should be doing more in science, particularly. I have learned (wish I figured it out earlier) that we can supplement what goes on at school with good tutors and trainers.

Posted by: free bird | July 27, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I live in Loudoun County and I think the schools here are atrocious. My mom is a former Fairfax County teacher, and the schools there are not wonderful either - however their PR team is by far the best in the country. In my county, the school websites post the syllabi for each semester. It is pathetic. Students learn how to use the dictionary in the 5th grade. FIFTH GRADE!! I went to a very low-rent elementary school 25 years ago, and even there we were learning antonyms and synonyms in the 3rd grade.

For all the criticisms of NCLB, I hardly see anyone offering ideas on what the country *should* do as opposed to commentary on what it is doing wrong. The fact of the matter is that most countries can run academic circles around us - very dangerous in a global economy - and the status quo pre-NCLB was getting us nowhere.

Posted by: Loudoun County Resident | July 27, 2007 10:56 AM | Report abuse

by recent MCPS grad at July 27, 2007 10:42 AM

"I'm curious as to how teaching reading necessarily precludes the teaching of other subjects. When a student reads, after all, they read about SOMETHING--not about reading itself, but often (at least in the younger grades) about some historical event/period or important discovery or famous person. If a student reads about these subjects, aren't they learning about social studies and science and etc.?"

Your point is a particularly potent one for actually doing somewhat the opposite of what you propose: that is reading as the responsibility of all teachers, not just the English teacher. This is an idea I support because the types of reading skills necessary in, say, Science are very different than those in History. The same thing might be addressed to writing. It would shorten English classes (the name of which might be changed to "Literature").

It might also bring attention to the approximatee reading level of textbooks in other subjects besides English. Science textbooks are notorious for having reading levels sometimes up to 5 grade levels above the grades they are designed for. It is a problem.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I went to a private school for a couple of years and a good public school for a couple of years in HS. There was no difference. I live in a GOOD district now and have no intention of blowing 100-200k on aprivate school for two kids.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 27, 2007 11:00 AM | Report abuse

"I live in a GOOD district now and have no intention of blowing 100-200k on aprivate school for two kids. "

To each his own.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"The people I know who have put their kids into private schools lose that. And in the case of those who put their kids into rich kid schools, there is definitely a class system. If there's a problem between a rich kid and a poor kid, the school will side with the rich kid."

Wow, what a generalization we are making. I come from a very blue collar background and attended a "rich kid school" in the DC area on scholarship. Did the school side with "rich kids" all the time? Certainly not. Several were even expelled for various infractions.

What I **did** get - and what is very uncommon in most public schools - is an excellent professional network. Many of my friends from high school are now doctors and lawyers. Their parents were doctors, lawyers, corporate executives and even members of the political elite (that's how they were able to afford the INSANE tuition!), and their children have followed suit.

Posted by: To free bird | July 27, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

We tried public school and found, with the heavy emphasis on testing (thank you NCLB), my child was definitely left behind. The elementary school has a good reputation and several parents were taken aback when we pulled our child out of the school and put her into private school.

To the person who said it was our "civic duty" to send our child to public schools obviously does not have a child who has struggled academically and worse, unable to get help. It's our duty as parents to make sure our child's needs are met. The school's response to our concerns was "well, she's testing on grade-level. What's the problem?" THAT's the attitude that made us pull our child out of public school.

As for affording private school, we're lucky in that we can pay for it (although it doesn't cost $12-$20K - can't afford that amount). But like others mentioned, we don't have fancy cars, we don't take a $1000+ vacation every year, we don't buy lots of new clothes, we don't have cable, we have one 20 year old TV.

Posted by: Slacker Mom | July 27, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

We chose to buy a small, old house in a great neighborhood with great public schools. We chose to pursue careers with flexibility so we could volunteer at our children's schools to ensure they remain great. We live in an area where the public schools know they are competing with private schools, and so the teachers are great, the curriculum is robust, and we supplement the arts and sports as needed. We want our children to remain of the neighborhood, as we are, so we participate in everything local.

Posted by: Bethesdamom | July 27, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

"I consider it a civic responsibility to send my children to public schools. If the middle class pulls out you are leaving poor children with no large group to advocate for them and other public school children."

My child ... is just a child. She has no social responsibility or debt to pay to the masses. I refuse to compromise her education just to make myself feel better about there being poor minority kids.

Posted by: To AnnR | July 27, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I don't have children yet, but I probably will within the next few years and ensuring they get a good education is very important to me. I know that my experiences worked well for me (a combination of homeschooling, montessori school, private school, public school 2nd-12th grade, and private college that I paid for myself), but I also know that things have changed since I went through school. Even before NCLB I saw my high school changing behind me-- standards were being lowered for kids a few grades below me, programs cancelled, etc.

I don't expect that my children will learn everything they need to know in school-- I consider one of my responsibilities as a parent to be teaching my children all the things they don't learn in school. My mother did the same for me by teaching me to read long before I entered Kindergarden and making all four of her kids read a ridiculous amount of books as we were growing up. I will do the same, but I also had the benefit of a really good public school where all the teachers (history, literature, science, etc) designed lessons that built off each other. I also had the benefit of lots of good honors and AP classes.

Private schools can be good or bad, as can public schools. My question for parents with children in school now is how do you make sure your children are getting a good education? How do you know that the solution you've chosen for them is working?

Posted by: Regan | July 27, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

"If the middle class pulls out you are leaving poor children with no large group to advocate for them and other public school children."

Lady, I grew up very, very poor. No one advocated for me. I won't gamble with my children's futures for a bunch of bull.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Alas for being a slow typist and missing posts while I am typing in response to others!

By Loudoun County Resident at July 27, 2007 10:56 AM

"For all the criticisms of NCLB, I hardly see anyone offering ideas on what the country *should* do as opposed to commentary on what it is doing wrong. The fact of the matter is that most countries can run academic circles around us - very dangerous in a global economy - and the status quo pre-NCLB was getting us nowhere."

I would disagree with the statement that most countries can run academic circles around the US. There are many contradictary statistics in that debate and it would be premature to determine this for sure.

Not that this is any reason for complacency, even if the US were easily determinable as the number one educator of its citizens in the world there would still be substantual reason to try to improve the system to be yet even better.

However, you are definately correct concerning the lack presentation of substantive alternative proposals. Not that alternatives are non-existant, but they do not have sponsors on the policy/political stage. The funding of public schools via local personal property taxes is an excellent example of something that could be reformed to redistrubute the funds more widely. It might also bring more accountability to wasteful school systems.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

My child ... is just a child. She has no social responsibility or debt to pay to the masses. I refuse to compromise her education just to make myself feel better about there being poor minority kids.

Good point.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Social Sciences are not being absorbed into other classes, they are being ignored. We are creating a generation of youth who will not be civically active, nor be good citizens because of this.
What's silly about this is that learning history taught by a qualified teacher will only reinforce reading and english skills. There's no confilct here, except the one that is being created by NCLB. The poster who mentioned not finding teachers who are in favor of NCLB is correct; I haven't found one educator in favor of it, and I work with teachers from across the country.
As for all the posters who say this is why I send my kids to private school, many people cannot afford it. Many people in America are actaully already working two jobs just to make ends meet. What you are in fact saying is that people of means should have a quality education, but if you're poor, you're screwed. We as taxpayers should be telling our elected officials that NCLB is unacceptable, and we want a society of well rounded students who can think, not just robots who can add or read a sign.
By the way, even if you take your kids out of public school, you're still paying for those schools.

Posted by: History Rocks | July 27, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Our kids have been in a fine public elementary school, but we are getting ready to send them to private school, because of the issues discussed above -- smaller class size, more arts and foreign language classes, and more PE. It will be a financial hit (about $24,000 per kid), but that's yet another reason why I chose not to stay home -- I want to give my kids the best education I can, the same as my parents gave me, and for which I am truly grateful. We live in DC, we love our neighborhood, and local public schools are not an option. I realize we are fortunate to be able to do it, but that doesn't make us elitist snobs either.

Posted by: DC | July 27, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

History Rocks

"What you are in fact saying is that people of means should have a quality education, but if you're poor, you're screwed."

Darwinism takes its course.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 11:27 AM | Report abuse

My question for parents with children in school now is how do you make sure your children are getting a good education? How do you know that the solution you've chosen for them is working?

Posted by: Regan | July 27, 2007 11:14 AM

Be involved in your child's school. You don't have to be a "helicopter" parent but stay in touch with the school whether it is public or private. Support the teachers. There are great ones out there and they really need the support of the parents. One thing I love about my kids' school is that I have been able to get to know the teachers on a personal level. We truly respect each other and my kids' have benefitted from that. Try to take time to go on field trips, attend school functions, get involved in the PTA. With that kind of help, the whole school benefits not just your kids.

Posted by: MDMom | July 27, 2007 11:28 AM | Report abuse

If private school were tax deductable (like college tuition), we might be able to afford it. But as it stands now, there is simply no way.

We live in a tiny townhouse and don't throw money around. Our major luxury is Indian takeout a few times a month. There is no way we could come up with $20-30,000 a year (minumum). We could never send our kids to college or afford to retire. My understanding of private school financial aid is that you have to be almos at the poverty line to qualify. If you are a regular middle-class family who has a bit of extra money every month to put into savings, then you are considered too "rich."

I will start my kids out in public school, but if I don't like what I'm seeing I will homeschool them. It's not a solution I'm terribly happy with, however.

Posted by: va | July 27, 2007 11:49 AM | Report abuse

NCLB is a work of pure genius. It's the best way to create a generation of worker bees with little idealism or concept of community, while still preserving the illusion of choice. They won't unionize, they won't organize and they won't revolt. The ruling elite will stay in place as their children will be indoctrinated into a completely different system. There is a class war going on and today's children are it's canon fodder.

Posted by: Xrys | July 27, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I have no comment on the public/private debate except to say that, for my husband and me, living in an area with fabulous public schools is our highest priority. If your public schools are not doing the job, I completely sympathize with sending kids to private school if you can. This was never an option for my parents for a variety of reasons (there were no other schools around, for one) - and I had to put in some serious personal effort to reach my professional goals. I will do everything I can to ease that way for my children -- such is the passage of generations, right?

Being an educator (higher ed) and a historian by trade, the NCLB curriculum frightens me. I completely agree with an earlier poster who stated that he/she would rather have a historian critiquing writing than an English teacher trying to teach history. In theory, with great reading and comprehension skills, a student can learn anything he or she wants to. Nevertheless, for me it sort of gets back to that scene in Mr. Holland's Opus where they cut the music funding and he notes that pretty soon the children will have nothing to read or write about. I really wonder what sort of citizens (of country or world) NCLB students will be if they have only sporadic lessons in history. This is also distressing because those of us who teach history at advanced levels have worked hard to revamp the way history has been taught in schools (incorporating more social and cultural history and getting away from the war and conflict/chronological model)...I hope this new material has a chance to see the light of day.


Posted by: AMWiseman | July 27, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

va

"I will start my kids out in public school, but if I don't like what I'm seeing I will homeschool them. It's not a solution I'm terribly happy with, however."

Did you consider your financial situation BEFORE you had children?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

""To my husband and I it is worth it for our kids to get what we think is a better educational experience"

Oh, the irony! It should be "To my husband and ME"


Actually, the entire sentence is butchered. Much better to say "My husband and I believe it is worth it for our kids to get a better education experience by attending private school."

Posted by: Dad with Kids from A-Z | July 27, 2007 12:02 PM | Report abuse

To free bird:

Yes -- I knew I was generalizing but the examples I have seen of regular kids in rich kid schools have not impressed me. As a matter of fact, they scare the heck out of me!

As to doctors and lawyers, etc. Our public school district claims that 90% of their students come from a home with at least one parent with a post-graduate degree. So that's doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists. They have high expectations of their kids and the kids tend to be quite successful.

Posted by: free bird | July 27, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I believe it is worth it for our kids to get a better education experience by attending private school."

Don't you mean "educational experience" grammar czar?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"My husband and I believe it is worth it for our kids to get a better education experience by attending private school."

Duh, isn't that kind of obvious?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 12:18 PM | Report abuse

"Did you consider your financial situation BEFORE you had children?"

Yeah, of course. I just told you exactly what our plan was. We always knew we would never be able to afford private school. That's hardly a necessity, however. We'll give our local public schools a shot, and if we don't like them, I'll homeschool the kids. What does that have to do with not considering our finances? If having children were limited to people who could afford private school, almost no one would have children.

Posted by: va | July 27, 2007 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Don't have time to read all the postings, but MUST get this out.

Everyone KNOWS the good schools. That's why housing prices in certain areas are higher. Because of schools (usually). We are all well aware of the good and the not so good and the horrible schools. IT's just that some of us can move to better districts and some of us can't.

SO WHY do we have this horribly outdated idea of school districts? Why not give people vouchers and let the schools compete?

Another thing - I JUST found out, but I'm not surprised, that ALL teachers are paid the same - no matter what subject. So English teachers with the same background/same longevity, make the same amount as math and science teachers, who are *harder to find*. We need to pay all teachers more (no joke) but why not pay the teachers who teach subjects that are harder to find teachers for MORE MONEY? Use a market based system. There's a reason people in the sciences/math decide not to teach - the bureaucracy and the money. We would attract many more teachers if the money was there.

So, basically, the NEA is inflexible (as said by one of the presidents of the NEA (I'm paraphrasing): He works for the teachers, he's not paid by the students).

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

What alarms me the most is that so much is being cut out of the curriculum, but so many schools are STILL struggling to teach math and reading. If all they do is focus on math and reading all day, and they still can't do a decent job with that, what's going on?

Posted by: reston, va | July 27, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that you can underestimate the effect of behavioral problems on a teachers ability to teach. Many of these behaviors are the fault of lousy parents, but many of them are also the result of undiagnosed learning disorders and improper nutrition. The school cannot make up for what happens at home. If you have a child who is LD, who gets no help at home either because the parent doesn't care or doesn't know how or is absent to work, coupled with inadequate rest and nutrition all the teaching in the world won't help him/her. Conversely if you have a motivated child in a class of children with no discipline who don't respect authority - that child cannot learn until there is some control over the class. People expect the schools to overcome a lot of things that they are not and should not necessarily be responsible for.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 12:36 PM | Report abuse

atlmom:

Re: paying English teachers the same as Math/science teachers: that's the world of "equal pay for equal work." Both jobs require the same qualifications (Bachelor's degree in Education, plus subject matter expertise, plus usually certification). So why not pay the same? The "market-based approach" - perceived supply and demand determines compensation - that drives most salaries is not used in teacher salaries.

Re: school districts: the biggest problem would be that, if everyone in the state were allowed to go to any school they wanted, the 'best' or 'more desirable' schools would quickly be swamped. In order to protect the quality of education at those schools, you'd have to have some way of limiting enrollment, which means you'd then have to decide whether to give preference to the family that lives across the street from the school or to a family from a very poor neighborhood that might not otherwise get this opportunity. Most jurisdictions believe that that's too hard; rather than allow that to happen it's better to pay lip service to the goal of raising all schools up. (Although they do address this same problem with magnet schools.)

Posted by: Army Brat | July 27, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Is this turning into the Moxiemom blog?

If so, what are her qualifications?

Posted by: Confused | July 27, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Army brat: certainly - I hear you. But supply and demand is working - and those teachers with math and science skills are leaving (or not considering teaching in the first place) because of huge pay discrepancies. So we have a shortage.

It is not easy to figure out how to deal with the issues of vouchers, but it is a solution - they are now dealing with overcrowding at schools (my elem. school is already WAY overcrowded), but a school is NOT ALLOWED to say no (based on a student transferring due to NCLB) to a school no matter how overcrowded it is - so my elem is now way overcrowded. It's a shame. It is definitely affecting the learning process.

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Darwinism takes its course.

Posted by: | July 27, 2007 11:27 AM

Is that your response for everything? It is sooooo tired. Too many times do parents say "well we are sending our kids to private school, in some competitive one upmanship way. Well that's a heavy load and it must be paid for , day by day.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 27, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"Is that your response for everything? It is sooooo tired. Too many times do parents say "well we are sending our kids to private school, in some competitive one upmanship way. Well that's a heavy load and it must be paid for , day by day."

What EVER! Get a grip!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 1:29 PM | Report abuse

What EVER! Get a grip

Well that's much better Moonbeam, thanks.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 27, 2007 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Growing up the ES teachers always looked for any reason to avoid teaching science, they'd hated it then, they hated teaching it, and they weren't above telling my mom that they hated teaching it, and they weren't going to teach it unless FORCED to. Somehow I doubt that this has changed. When I got my licensure to teach, most of the ES teachers could barely do simple math, had zero clue in science and had no clue in what was going on in the areas of history. They just knew that kids were cute. A good friend of mine is currently going back for her Masters in Education and made the great statment that some TV show person had once gone onto the street and asked Americans "In what country is Paris, France" and that most people couldn't answer. A Catholic school teacher was furious that people were expected to know such drivel. She pointed out to him that it wasn't a knowledge based question, it was a dissect the question question, and he kept yelling who would know what country Paris France was in. (Names and Schools withheld for those who are currently ever so happy about their private schools) I don' tknow what the answer is. Personally, I think if private schools are so terrific, and home schooling is so equivalent, why not just test the kids at the end of the year and let them get the equivalency stuff? But accept that especially in the lower grades, but in the school systems people hate knowledge, and are very determined to not know anything.

Posted by: ljb | July 27, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

We send our older child to private school for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is that our local public elementary school focuses almost exclusively on reading and math, which seems insufficient given that the children are there 6+ hours every day.

For those who have asked about financial aid for private schools, we receive a 40 percent discount on our child's private school tuition. We have 1.5 decent incomes (we both work professional jobs for nonprofits, one of us part-time) and have one younger child in part-time daycare. We applied for admission thinking we'd never really be able to pay the tuition, and were very pleasantly surprised by the discount we were offered. It is still a large financial commitment but one that we are currently willing to make.

Posted by: dc | July 27, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"Personally, I think if private schools are so terrific, and home schooling is so equivalent, why not just test the kids at the end of the year and let them get the equivalency stuff?"

I swear I am not being snarky, but I don't understand what you are saying. What is the "equivalency stuff"?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

ljb

What is an ES teacher?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I didn't have any social studies or science in elementary school, but I did have it in middle school and high school; and now i'm an American history and Political Science major, and I'll probably do graduate degrees in one of those fields. Its relatively easy to teach social studies quickly. As for science, much of it requires a strong foundation in math beforehand. In this case, you're all over-reacting.

Posted by: Relax, Parents | July 27, 2007 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Here in Tribeca PS 234 has in fact added time by taking away from such silly and mundane subjects like gym, social studies, etc.

We are now proud to be adding the following:
Blackberry: Thumbs up for me
Fashion selection: Kool dressing when you rep T'Beca. (Gap, B. Republic, etc. is so declasse.
Labels and logos: Know what's hot what's not
Play Dates: Only the best for my baby

This is what this generation needs. Anyone can read but my child reads menus from bouley and knows who to socialize with, just like her parents. We are proud

Posted by: NYC | July 27, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

For those who have asked about financial aid for private schools, we receive a 40 percent discount on our child's private school tuition

What fo you mean a discount, how did that work?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"Private schools can be good or bad, as can public schools. My question for parents with children in school now is how do you make sure your children are getting a good education? How do you know that the solution you've chosen for them is working?"

You will know if you are involved in their schoolwork. Trends will appear. In our case, our daughter's spelling did not improve between kindergarten and 2nd grade. At first, people pooh-poohed our impression (labeled a hyper-pushy mom) until they saw an example of her writing. THEN they understood.

The school, however, just managed to place blame at her or our feet. We weren't involved enough, we didn't provide enough help or support, our daughter wasn't using THEIR tools effectively. It didn't matter that we had five levels of spelling books/dictionaries, hired a tutor, encouraged her to write stories, and of course read books to her as we had from birth. We, the parents, were obviously the source of the problem. Never once did they ask themselves "what else can we do to help?"

After watching our daughter lose her self-confidence over 18 months and get absolutely no support from the public school, we pulled her out mid-year and put her in a private Montessori school. In just one semester, her self-confidence returned and she liked school and learning again.

The problem is, and it's also evident here, there is an expectation that all children to learn in the same manner. With NCLB, this attitude has gotten even worse. People tend to think if the school is good and in a good neighborhood, then all children will learn. That's incredibly short-sighted and naive.

Posted by: Slacker Mom | July 27, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Financial aid discount: I meant that we applied for financial aid---a time-consuming process very similar to applying for financial aid for college---and were given an amount that covered 40% of our child's tuition. We reapply for aid every year and so far have received roughly the same amount each time.

Posted by: dc | July 27, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

> What is an ES teacher?

Elementary School

> I swear I am not being snarky, but I
> don't understand what you are saying.
> What is the "equivalency stuff"?

The public schools have these SOL or other exams that they give at the end of the years. A _lot_ of parents move their kids out of the system so that their kids won't have to pass these exams. I think a good way of baselining these tests would be to have *all* kids take the tests from the "good" private schools to the homeschooled, to everyone. It would also help validate homeschoolers transcripts for college.

SOL's in Virginia (the exam for NCLB) are here for Science/History/Social studies, they just haven't moved far enough back. Sadly, it seems to be the only way to force your teachers to teach anything.

Posted by: ljb | July 27, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm not the best person on this because I and my friends were proof that you could get a kick ass education in the worst public school. Bladensburg/PG County schools for me, long known as pretty much the worst.

Yes, we had to take on a lot of independent study, yes we had to force them to give us teachers for AP exams, and yes we had to squash our classes alongside less advanced ones- but we did it.

The trend is very bad and very wrong. I think one of the keys will be taking down the SAT. Since I don't see that happening any time soon unfortunately, we're going to be stuck with the notion that testing is good.

The other key I really believe will be to make schooling year round. Now, I was completely against this when I was IN school, but after traveling abroad, I sincerely think it's the right thing to do (once we get all schools air conditioned and heated properly). School expected year round, with regular longer breaks maintains the course of study and learning, so the teacher doesn't waste any time "next year" reminding the kids of what they learn, and gives room to spread things out and offer ALL the subjects.

As someone from a school where they cut drama because they needed another math teacher, it's a serious problem.

Posted by: Liz D | July 27, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

ES teacher = "Elementary School Teacher" I am guessing.

This probably is referencing the especially pronounced shortage of teachers of maths and sciences in the elementary school range.

Re: Private Schools & Vouchers

I think the most intractable thing about this issue is quality of private schools. As I mentioned previously, what research has been done suggests that private schools are not particularly better than public schools. This can be confusing since most people think of "Private Schools" as being the elite academies such as Andover/Exeter or the St. Stephens-St. Agnes schools. There are a great many private schools that cannot claim that level of success. The selectiveness of private schools is what makes them great - it is a rare thing indeed to find a private school that accepts anyone and it is the methods that make it a great school.

Here is another thought: There are also not enough private schools to accomodate everyone who would need/want them. To supply the demand that a voucher system would create, new private schools would open up around the country, and yet there is no guarantee that these schools would actually educate any better. It would only be a matter of time until the public would urge the government to stepped in and try to correct the matter and then the system of public schools has recreated itself.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 2:30 PM | Report abuse

What on earth is so wrong with the SAT?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Liz D

"I'm not the best person on this because I and my friends were proof that you could get a kick ass education in the worst public school."

Not quite a kick ass education- it should be "my friends and I were proof..."

Posted by: Rosa | July 27, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

One thing parents can do it vote with their kids feet -- protest and keep their kids out of school for a week at a time. The lost funds due to "average daily attendance" would panic the school administrators and school boards. Maybe then they'd pay attention to the maddening and deadening affects of NCLB. Be clear about what you are upset about -- the lack of content and diversity of subjects being taught. It's certainly worth a shot!

Posted by: gottabeanon | July 27, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

You know what none of this matters. Your spawn are facing a hell of a future and the way it sounds here you are all models of how not to raise children. Whaaa whaaa, snark snark, me, me me.

Thank God global warming, debt to China, the right, the left, al qaeda, China as a food supplier, China as a manufacturer, etc. will thin the herd and hopefully improve the group discourse here. Do any of you really consider what you say or do. Or is it this me entitled generation thing from your parents that you are using to create spawn from hell.

Posted by: NYC | July 27, 2007 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Isn't the real reason for NCLB the disparity between kids whose parents ensure that they are ready and willing to learn, and those who don't? It's really a cultural malady that NCLB is trying to change and hang on the necks of teachers, rather than parents.

IMHO, parents of America need to wake up and be sure that 1) their kids learn English as soon as possible (turn OFF the second language radio and tv stations at home; 2) their kids are encouraged to learn. That would take care of most issues, other than learning disabilities.

Yeah, life stinks for some, but the U.S. is still a great place for those who want to work just a little bit. It's quite embarassing when the scores of lesser developed countries are better than ours. Or when Oprah decides to fund schools in South Africa to give those kids a chance, because she herself is giving up on the work ethic in U.S. inner cities. Go figure.

Posted by: gottabeanon | July 27, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

My husband and I were educated in public schools, he in the Midwest and I in the South. Both of us had adequate educations. In fact, the valedictorian of my class was a Rhodes Scholar after completing his undergraduate degree, so the public school certainly was not a hindrance to him or the rest of us.

Fast-forward a few years. After teaching in the public schools for a few years in another state, I moved here and had to go on the substitute teacher rolls because no jobs were available at the time. I was called in to substitute at various schools. One day I was called by a Catholic girl's school (a friend had given them my name) so I went in to teach there.

My eyes were opened for the first time to the major differences between public and private schools. The class size in the private schools is at least half the size of most public school classes. That makes a significant difference to teachers and students. Discipline is vastly different also, since the students apply to attend rather than being in the school's attendace area, and their parents are very supportive of the school's programs and standards. Little or no time is spent dealing with disruptions. Academic standards are higher across the board because only students with the academic ability to do the work can get into the school.

Elitist? Yes, to a large degree. Private schools can afford to pick and choose. Expensive? Absolutely. If the school wants the student, though, they can provide finacial aid (even for middle-class students) sufficient enough for the parents to afford to pay the balance.

After my epiphany that day (before we had children) we decided that our future children would attend private school. The private schools could provide small classes, personal attention, and academic rigor that we were not sure we could get in the local public schools. I figured our kids could get the academic rigor if we made sure they were in appropriate classes, but we could not be sure that they would be in reasonably small classes or that they would receive any personal attention. From my own experience in the classroom, many good, well-behaved students got overlooked because they did well academically and did not disrupt classes with bad behavior. Squeaky wheels get attention, and quiet, good students don't squeak.

It was expensive, even with financial aid, but we got what we wanted. Our kids got a fabulous education in a wonderful environment. They were well-known by the teachers in the schools they attended, even if they were not actually in those teachers' classes. They both have expressed their gratitude to us for doing that for them, especially now that they are adults and have seen so many people their age who are not as well-prepared for the world as they are. They also did not get caught up in keeping up with the rich kids and their way of life. We were lucky in that regard.

So, what is the best choice? Whatever you feel is the right choice for your children. One size does not fit all, even within the same family. Whether you choose public school, private school, or home school, it should only be with the best interest of your child in mind, nothing else. No one's opinion, including mine, should affect the decision that you make. It's no one's business but yours and your child's. As one earlier poster said, and I'm paraphrasing it here, you only have one chance to raise and educate your child--no do-overs.

Posted by: Lynne | July 27, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Posted by Anonymous at July 27, 2007 02:46 PM

"What on earth is so wrong with the SAT?"

There is nothing specifically wrong with the test, but the exalted status it has gained could be considered "wrong." I was under the impression that "Liz D" was making the suggestion that there is a cult of standardized testing of which the SAT is a very large part. At the very least I would agree that the SAT has achieved a level of importance beyond its capacity.

The main issues with the SAT that I am familiar with are as follows:

-The design of the test (multiple choice with certain pre-determined question styles) makes it easy to game the test if you know how. The existance of Kaplan, the Princeton Review, and other courses is fairly good evidence to this point.
-The boom in college applications has made the test into a gateway exam into college in that Universities use the test as a filter to narrow down their large applicant pools. Most Universities admit to doing this to a greater or lesser extent.
-The format and type of knowledge of the questions are biased against certain learning styles/intelligences/races-ethic groups. This is one of the harder statements to prove, but research has thus far suggested there is some truth to these accusations.
-There is substantive evidence that there is a high correlation on the new SAT essay exam between length and score. There is also valid criticism that the 25 minute time allotment doesn't allow for the kinds of revision and editing commonly associated with good writing (and hence the test doesn't really do a very good job demonstrating writing skill).

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

jj - I agree with you, but I can't think of a better way to do it. I'd love to hear from education people or statistics folks.

Posted by: Moxiemom | July 27, 2007 09:03 AM


As someone who teaches statistics at a large, well-known public university which is consistently rated in the top 20 in the country, I can tell you that just teaching math and reading will not make students better at social studies, etc. The problem is that our schools teach children how to memorize and regurgitate instead of thinking. NCLB only emphasises this even more, by making the students' performance on a standardisded test the most important thing about their education. We need to teach critical thinking skills. The number of students that I have had in my classes who think that if they just memorize the formulas then they've learned science would astound most of you. And yes, that includes students from good private schools as well.

Posted by: Stats | July 27, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Dave S: are you saying that the public schools are so horrible that no one would send their kids there unless they are forced to? Cause if that's what you are saying, we're in a heap of more trouble than we ever thought. And being held hostage by the NEA.

ANd, yes, my thought is that people hate math and science because they are taught it by elem. ed teachers who hate the subjects themselves. this is a terrible shame.

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Lynne

"So, what is the best choice? Whatever you feel is the right choice for your children."

Really? There are over 1 million people sitting in American prisons. Their parents felt they made the right choices. Parents need INFORMATION these days to make choices. It is human nature to tend to do the easiest thing, not the right thing.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

altmom -- it's not NEA, it's NCLB. The good teachers know how to teach in all the ways noted above; they simply are not allowed to use their skills to do so when the classroom time is REQUIRED to be used for math and language arts, esp. in low performing (or PI ) schools. It's a really stupid gordian knot.

Is there a way to fix it? Yes. Better teacher preparation, more professional development for those really committed to students and teaching, and get the federal gov't out of public schools once and for all.

(Believe it or not, I'm a liberal)

Posted by: gottabeanon | July 27, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Wait: another big problem in the schools: the teachers aren't allowed to remove disruptive kids from the classrooms. I'm not saying someone who talks every once in a while - but real disruptions. The teachers have to figure out how to teach to them, be 'sensitive to their situation,' etc. Years ago, if there were students who did not want to learn, they were kicked out of school to go to another school where they knew how to handle that. No more - now ALL teachers have to deal with it.
And fewer parents actually teach what they need to at home - they think the schools should be the ones to do everything...

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 3:15 PM | Report abuse

NCLB only emphasises this even more, by making the students' performance on a standardisded test the most important thing about their education. We need to teach critical thinking skills

Which of course can't be measured, which means YOU can't be held accountable for your professional results....... The NEA hates results oriented proposals

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Really? There are over 1 million people sitting in American prisons. Their parents felt they made the right choices

That is an asinine post.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 27, 2007 3:22 PM | Report abuse

My DD just got accepted to a "prestigious" private school for kindergarten (which makes me laugh because seriously how prestigious is kindergarten) and DH and I are pleased. I am concerned about her going to a "rich kids" school, but in all fairness, we are "new" wealthy people (meaning our parents were not). So we believe that we will not have to worry about problems facing many parents with kids in public schools (overcrowding, shortage of supplies etc) we have different concerns.

We chose private schools even though we were both public school educated because the public schools around us are not like they were when we were kids. Our best friends live in a very small town in central Pennsylvania and their public schools are like they were when we were kids. I think everyone has to take stock in where they live and make the right decisions for them.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I also agree with the posters who say that most ES teachers do not teach math or science well. I was in the GT program in the FFx county schools back in the 80s, and it was terrible even then. Most teachers I had barely had a grounding in basic arithmetic themselves, and their grasp of science was nonexistent. In many cases, it was obvious that the 5th graders knew more about the material than the teachers.

I think the only real solution is to hire seperate teachers to teach math/science in elementary schools, which probably will not happen becuse it's too expensive. It's very, very difficult to find one person who can teach all these subjects well, and it seems that math and science are falling through the cracks as a result.

Posted by: reston, va | July 27, 2007 3:46 PM | Report abuse

By atlmom at July 27, 2007 03:09 PM

"Dave S: are you saying that the public schools are so horrible that no one would send their kids there unless they are forced to? Cause if that's what you are saying, we're in a heap of more trouble than we ever thought. And being held hostage by the NEA."

That was not my intention. However the popularity of the (so far) experimental voucher programs indicate that there would be a substantual enough migration to create the hypothetical situation I was referring to. This is particularly true because the migration would probably be localized (not too many parents want their children to go to school that far from where they live). I think low performing rural areas would be some of the most vulnerable to the situation as the population of migrants would vastly outpace the number of private schools.

The system to me also seems very open to the possibility of fraud. There have already been cases of private schools that have attempted to effectively defraud the experimental voucher systems.

I that makes me suspicious of vouchers. In the spirit of Jefferson's well known quote regarding the necessity of an educated populace in maintaining a democracy, the money would be better put to the improvement of public schools in poor areas.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

My mom always told me that you get out of education what you put into it. I attended private schools as a child with much emphasis on social studies (hated it!) and music (loved the Symphony!). My children attend public school because we don't have the means to send them to private schools. They don't like social studies either...:)

Posted by: momof3boys | July 27, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse

But you could also restrict vouchers to only public schools, right? Just don't let people be held hostage to 'school districts.'

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Really? There are over 1 million people sitting in American prisons. Their parents felt they made the right choices. Parents need INFORMATION these days to make choices. It is human nature to tend to do the easiest thing, not the right thing.

------------------------------------------
Well, really. I seriously doubt that the parents of some of those "over 1 million people sitting in American prisons" made informed choices about the education of their children or even gave much thought to how they raised them. Others who sit in those prisons had good parents who tried, but, as one other anonymous poster here is fond of saying, "Darwinism takes its course," by which I am sure s/he means that they are at the bottom of the gene pool and have self-selected out of it.

My whole point in my first post was that my husband and I made an informed choice--based on what I had experienced as a teacher in both public schools and then in the private school that day. No, that one day did not seal the deal for us. We did a lot of talking around with friends, looked into various options, and then made our decision. If people do not seek information, it's not likely that it will come seeking them.

I really found your response confusing--I'm not sure just what your point is. Do you mean that the vast majority of people only send their kids to the local public schools because that is easier than seeking what is best for each child even if they feel the child needs something different?

Posted by: Lynne | July 27, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

and i know there are plenty of good public high schools around - I went to one - and it was a top 10 high school in the country - counting public *and* private schools, many of my classmates went on to ivy league or equivalent schools.

SO I would not give up hope on public school, because - with parental involvement AND parents showing their kids education is important, etc, they can be a great success.

I agree - it's NCLB that has taken out any modicum of individuality that our schools and/or teachers ever had.

Posted by: atlmom | July 27, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by atlmom at July 27, 2007 03:59 PM

"But you could also restrict vouchers to only public schools, right? Just don't let people be held hostage to 'school districts.'"

You could. NCLB tries to do something to that effect making a district bus students from schools that don't make annual yearly progress to schools that do. There are money problems with that system (the transportation costs as well as the drain of money from the "failing" school) but it exists at least in some form.

Your point about people being held hostage to school districts goes back to my earlier thought about the way public schools are funded. To break with "school districts" truthfully, you would likely have to figure a new way to fund the schools that did not depend on local property taxes.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

"The boom in college applications has made the test into a gateway exam into college in that Universities use the test as a filter to narrow down their large applicant pools. Most Universities admit to doing this to a greater or lesser extent."

Understood and I agree. But what else can the universities really be expected to do? The applicant pools are very big, and grades given by teachers are extremely subjective. College essays can be written by people other than the applicant (there are folks who make their living consulting others on college/grad school/med school applications). Letters of recommendation will almost universally be positive - after all, few people are stupid enough to ask for recommendations from people unwilling to give good ones. Universities could also look at AP scores - but not everyone has access to those courses, plus it's just another standardized test to substitute for the SAT. So while I agree that the SAT/ACT are often gateway exams, how else can a university ensure that they are accepting applicants who can meet a standard of academic success and rigor?

I'll fess up. I did "ok" on the SAT way back when. Above average, but nothing stellar. Yet I attended one of the best universities on the East Coast ... how? Because I went to an "elite" private school for high school ... therefore, my average grades and SAT scores were swept under the carpet based on the name recognition of my alma mater. Most of the other folks who attended my university had to claw their way in. I was lucky - but not everyone has that luck.

Posted by: StudentMom | July 27, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

schools will vary in quality as long as the majority of funding is based on property taxes. I'd eliminate the public school system, sell the facilities, and provide vouchers to those who can't afford private tution. essentially privatize the system with local oversight.

Posted by: property taxes | July 27, 2007 4:18 PM | Report abuse

by StudentMom at July 27, 2007 04:10 PM

"But what else can the universities really be expected to do?"

A very good question. If I had a difinitive answer to that, I could probably make a mint. The idea of an entrance exam isn't the problem, just the SAT does not seem to me to be designed with this in mind.

A possibility could be individual tests designed by Universities themselves for their applicants. This would help with the application boom as well as students would have an advantage to be more selective about which colleges they apply to. This is distasteful to me because it would mean taking yet even more time away from juniors and seniors in high school, but it is a thought.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

by property taxes at July 27, 2007 04:18 PM

"I'd eliminate the public school system, sell the facilities, and provide vouchers to those who can't afford private tution. essentially privatize the system with local oversight."

Where would the money for the vouchers come from? I am not stating that as a challenge, but I am interested in your idea.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Where would the money for the vouchers come from? I am not stating that as a challenge, but I am interested in your idea.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 04:24 PM

the money paid for property taxes that would typically go into the school funds would go into the voucher fund. But then, we would have some states poorer than others.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

that's the problem -- i've no idea --

perhaps is as simple as redistributing funds. the state/locality would only be responsble for paying enrollment for those who can't afford tutiton. the private school would be responsbile for teacher salaries and facility mantenance, etc.

maybe create a sliding scale type system. say a school district spends X per student. perhaps those above a certain income level should pay directly to enroll a student, while those below would be subsidized.

this may be more equitable than the current system, where schools quality is linked to the local tax base.

Posted by: property taxes | July 27, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

by Anonymous at July 27, 2007 04:29 PM

(Is that you "property taxes"?)

"he money paid for property taxes that would typically go into the school funds would go into the voucher fund. But then, we would have some states poorer than others."

You hit the nail on the head in that you would still have a rich/poor divide, just a partially private one. Solving that would either require redistribution of income through the use of a federal tax (not confident that is politically possible) or some form of state/federal grant process to the poorest districts.

Don't be discouraged at the lack of an apparent answer. The problems of budgeting and who foots the bill for public schools and the education of the poor and disabled is one of the most contentious political debates in the country, not something easily resolved.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

by property taxes at July 27, 2007 04:33 PM

"this may be more equitable than the current system, where schools quality is linked to the local tax base."

I think you are right that it would be more equitable. I also think that there would still need to be more funding from outside a locality, particularly for students with disabilities.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Also, one of the key problems in my mind is that the poorer schools -- the schools that have the smallest tax base -- need more money to solve their problems than the affluent schools that can have Taco Bell in the cafeterias and 6 drama clubs. However, the US is not a socialist country. We do not take all the money available for a cause and pass it our evenly because we are human and special interests will come back into the equation

Posted by: Anon from 4:29 | July 27, 2007 4:47 PM | Report abuse

David S
That wasn't me -- but I agree with what anonymous said. but you're right, it's tough. i went to private schools when i lived in a poorer state (TN) and public schools when we moved to NoVa.

I don't see how you fix the problem, because those in good districts will be afraid of "losing" to bolster poorer and/or underperforming schools. And it really bothers me that kids are used for political purposes by all sides of the debate.

Anyway, nice chatting w/ you. enjoy your weekend.

Posted by: property taxes | July 27, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

One thing I do wish is that we had more options for different kind of educational models in our public schools. I would love to send my daughter to a public montessori, but they are very rare (the only one in the area, I think, is in Arlington). I'm not sure why there aren't more of them, since I'm sure there would be demand. Maybe they cost more to run? I don't know.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they cost more to run? I don't know.
The NEA and public education system are bureaucracies and don't like any change and are certainly not innovative. They just want all of us to stay the hell out of the schools and let them conduct business as usual.

Posted by: pATRICK | July 27, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

patrick,
Yeah, that what I figured. It makes me crazy, because my local elementary is reasonably good, I just really, really don't like the "traditional" educational model at all. If I could afford to move to Arlington, I would, but that ain't happening. I have been debating what to do about this since my daughter was born.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

by Anon from 4:29 at July 27, 2007 04:47 PM

"However, the US is not a socialist country."

No, indeed it is not. That is not to say that we do not have a few social welfare programs. It may be that public schools will become one of those in the comming years.

Or perhaps we will move towards a more free market model. Jefferson, who was a great proponent of public schooling, advocated that it should be voluntary, which is not the case today.

The danger is that we spend too much time experimenting with public schools. The failure of NCLB in many areas and the accusations about its effect on students show that just having good intentions does not guarantee success.

Posted by: David S | July 27, 2007 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Why is it a problem for some people that NCLB "teaches to the test" when it is not a problem for them that their high schoolers take SAT prep courses either as part of the curriculum or the families actually pay hundreds of $$$ for an outside SAT prep course? Does anyone else see the irony in this?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 27, 2007 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm one of the most well-rounded, well-educated persons I know, including those who went through private schools. The big issue with science and social studies are precisely what has already been brushed upon here: the school day, in general, isn't long enough. I firmly believe that the school day for children above 7 should extend from 9 or 10 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon, and this is what some school districts on the east coast are experimenting with. Right now, I teach at one such all-day school, and our kids pass all the standardized testing with flying colors, as well as a solid understanding of science and social studies. They also take Art, Spanish, Chinese, Dance, Physical Education, Swimming and Creative Writing in a revolving schedule in the afternoons.

The half-day model was based on a society where mothers had nothing better to do than make after-school snacks for their children, and wait anxiously for their children to come home to give them something to do. Even the idea of a two-month summer break is a bit annoying to one who understands that many children are no longer required to participate in the harvest anymore.

Ideally, children should have two weeks' vacation perhaps three times a year, and the hot summer months should be spent in learning environments that still manage to offer physical excercise to the children.

Posted by: Kat | July 28, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone here actually read any of the NCLB test questions? They are painfully easy. If large numbers of sudents in a school fail these tests, that means they are illiterate or semi-literate. And that means whatever the school has been doing is not working. Why then would we want to preserve the autonomy (and the breadth of the eucational mandate) of school systems that have been autonomous for decades and apparently can't teach kids to read or subtract? Honestly, how exactly were those schools teaching social studies to kids who can't read?

We've lost sight of something important here. If you set aside the politics and the rhetoric, and just look at the test questions, one thing is self-evdent: Kids who have received a halfway decent education should be able to pass these tests. Those who can't pass these tests simply can't read or do basic math problems. Period. If you're tempted to disagree, please, look at the test questions. If the students can't answer them, that means the school is failing in its most basic mission.

Posted by: new dad | July 30, 2007 12:22 AM | Report abuse

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