Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Reviewing the Smartest Kids in the World
Obviously a byproduct of having a school age child, so I've recently finished "The Smartest Kids in the World" and will read "Paying for the Party" next.
Ripley's key points:
Ripley's key points:
- Finns have the smartest kids in the world because their teachers are the best - highly selective to become one.
- She critiques No Child Left Behind for focusing on getting rid of existing bad teachers, but no effort on improving the screening for incoming quality (in my profession it would be called "inspecting quality in" or "product not process").
- Tracking is bad. Hadn't thought about the issue as I never noticed tracking to much of a degree when growing up - obviously that could be because I was tracked into a better track or path (e.g. magnet high school) - and hear I agree with her point. If you tell/imply/infer to a group that they are inferior, they will live down to your expectations.
- S. Korea produces smart kids because of a national mania for meritocracy. Do not recall a single example of any good comments about the Korean schools & Ripley notes that she saw a kid full R.E.M. sleeping in class. By contrast, the kids all cram post-school to achieve high test scores.
- Don't really remember much about Poland or why it was really included.
- PISA test tells whether you're the smartest kid in the world or not. Recall NAEP being mentioned a time or two (did not keep book, so cannot footnote as one critic did); PIRLS not even once; TIMSS, I did not recall, but per the harsh critic, it did come up when discussing Minnesota.
- Too much emphasis on sports in the US.
- There's a negative correlation between high tech aids and scholastic achievement.
Personal observations on tests and schooling:
Since my son is currently about to enter third grade, I haven't had any experience with the four standardized tests mentioned above - given that I scored well on the PSAT, SAT, GRE, and GMAT, I expect that my son will score well on them as well - will be curious to see the results. I recall taking standardized tests in elementary school - for one of them, I was bused to my brother's more well to do private school to take one of the tests since my school was not quite a "one room schoolhouse" but reasonably close - 3rd, 4th, and 5th grader shared a class.
Where does the money go? I keep reading that overall amounts of money for education have increased, but the first public school T attended, only had a PE teacher because the parents paid his salary. There was 1½ janitors for a school of 400 kids, so one of the dads donated a vacuum and vacuumed the rug in the kindergarten - another kindergarten teacher borrowed the vacuum one time for her room.
The fund raising seemed relentless - a dad at my work said "just tell me how much money you want, but stop nagging me & coming up with fund raisers."
Overall I would give the neighborhood school a B-. If I compared it to my "one room schoolhouse", it had an outside play area, a library, and a garden, so certainly better facilities. We actually used to walk 2½ blocks over to a French Quarter playground, and periodically we would walk to a public library in Faubourg-Marigny (long gone & replaced by a nursing home). There were definitely some negatives; very cliquish and the B- was really their max.
Current school is a new bi-lingual charter school borrowing part of a facility, but despite that handicap (and the loss of facilities is a loss), I would still give them a B with upside. The jury will remain out on the upside until they move to their final campus two years from now, but it has a better feel than the neighborhood school - yes, that is difficult to quantify.
The focus on a longer school year & homework is horrible. 45 minutes of homework in first grade (believe that was because the teaching assistant was an old lady who used a cane, so could do little beyond producing dull homework and grading it). Why cheat the children of a good break? Believe that both of these trends are a result of the "our children are falling behind the smartest kids in the world mantra."
Teacher continuing education/workshops/training. Did not exist in my day. Do not recall a single early day or school days off for seminars (obviously memories are flawed & i was in elementary school well nigh 50 years ago), but would recall if there were multiple days off. A nice bennie for the teachers, but does it really improve them or is it more a morale boast? Will say that the jury is still out, and it's past 11 so time to post.