Wednesday, February 01, 2006

John Stossel on Public Schools

John Stossel has another interesting entry in his ongoing series of articles on public schools.

One of the issues he addresses is the lack of "customer service" attitude in public schools. I have certainly experienced that firsthand in the past. The attitude is generally that the parents and families are there to serve the school, rather than the other way around. Our private school experience was precisely the opposite.

Stossel also shared an anecdote in which he tells of ABC News paying to send a 12th grader who could barely read at 1st grade level to Sylvan Learning Center. The student's reading ability went up two grade levels after 72 hours of tutoring.

It's simply wrong that the government forces parents to hand over tax dollars for schools and then doesn't provide an adequate educational experience, when parents could be using their own hard-earned money to provide their children with a much better education in the school or homeschool environment of their choosing.

The Sylvan anecdote also illustrates one of the many reasons homeschoolers usually do well academically: one of the most important factors in a child's educational success is the child receiving personal attention from someone who is vested in helping the child learn and succeed.


Blogger UGN said...

Interesting, very interesting.

This is one of the first times I have ever disagreed with John Stossel.

You know that I am a big critic of "the system," but I would bet my house that even schools in South Carolina do a good enough job to teach someone to read by 18. I'm positive we're not getting the whole story on the kid in this example.

If you are not a teacher, you can't fathom the total lack of effort some students put out. This guy bears responsibility for not being able to read, not the school.

And I love the part about Sylvan Learning Centers. Maybe because he was part of ABC's experiment, our 18 year old actually tried for 72 hours.

At my school it just cracks us up when parents say they are sending their kid to Sylvan for extra help. (One teacher said, "Do they think they have a magic wand or something?")

We are talking about kids who do nothing, NOTHING in class (Well, nothing resembling work.) They do NOTHING for homework and take advantage of none of the extra help they are offered. We have four levels of Language Arts at my school and in the two lowest levels they get double the class time with half of the number of students. Do you know what the kids in my lower level class do? That's right, nothing. They couldn't work for 5 min. straight to save their lives. They would rather fart and laugh about it, write notes to their friends, put their heads down on the desk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk all day long. They are impervious to any punishment, and calls to their parents change nothing. (I called a parent on the first day of school this year when his daughter called me "girlfriend"--he thought it was hilarious.)

If a student won't do any work for me, won't work for the resource teacher, and won't work for his parents at home, then how is a $10 an hour college kid going to get them to work?

I guess they must really have a magic wand.

9:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I think you raise some valid points. I have sure been exposed to kids myself who absolutely refuse to work and disrupt classrooms (giving my own kids -- and their teachers -- really bad experiences)...and I think it's a good question as to how much effort he was putting out by age 18. (I also hold the school systems accountable for not pitching the troublemakers out on their ears, as we've discussed before!)

On the other hand, I've also been exposed to such inept teachers and administrators that I'm a pretty big skeptic of many of them, too. (Not all, of course! A good teacher is worth their weight in gold, and more.) Even at the high school level, two out of four of the English teachers we've experienced have taught virtually *no* writing -- it's amazing to me that some of the most basic skills aren't even being attempted. And I know of some kids who had dedicated parents but at elementary age were simply becoming lost in a system that wasn't meeting their needs, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of those kids end up permanently "behind" to some degree. (I actually had an experience myself where I went to a principal for help and was told "Sink or swim." I'll never forget that.)

So those experiences might have led me to be less questioning of the article, rightly or wrongly... I like to be a critical thinker so I'm glad you raised these points for consideration. TTYS! Laura

P.S. Hang in there!! It sounds like you are facing challenges on a regular basis. My hat is off to you. :)

9:50 PM  
Blogger UGN said...

For sure part of the problem with the low or no achievers is that they find themselves stuck in a downward spiral and their whole culture becomes anti-school, anti-effort. I get them in 8th grade and don't know what went on before that has them so paralyzed. I know through looking at some cum files that some of them have always been like that. Certainly if they didn't promote them the very first time they failed, we might have a chance. It is worthless, however, to hold back an eighth grader who hasn't put forth any effort for years. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

10:03 PM  
Blogger UGN said...

On another point, I agree that the schools do not have a customer service attitude. In fact, they have almost a violent anti-customer attitude.

But the flip side is not always so good either. My friends in private schools tell me that the bending-over-backwards is so bad that you can't discipline students or even give them the grades they deserve. Parents don't want to shell out thousands of dollars to see their kids bring home F's, so instead of expecting more out of the kids, they make the school lower its standards. True.

10:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

The grade issue probably depends on the private school. In our short experience with our small local private school, we found they were always very honest and forthright in their assessments...if they weren't assessing the kids honestly, they couldn't have worked with them where they needed it, if that makes sense. (We didn't get grades, but detailed computer printouts assessing multiple areas.) Each child had an individual "game plan" teaching them, if needed, at multiple grade levels for different subjects and had curricula specifically tailored to their needs (i.e., the children even had their own spelling lists designed to improve problem areas).

Discipline problems weren't really an issue in that environment, especially with the small student teacher ratio (2 teachers and a max of 22 students per room)...just the normal small problems that come up in a room with 18 or so kids. The parents were all extremely involved, and it wasn't unusual to have a parent or two in the classroom along with the teachers. (This was a Montessori school...I've read more than once it's the most like homeschooling, which is kind of interesting.)

We may have just been lucky, though! I've heard some stories about private school difficulties as well. --Laura

10:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older