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:

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.

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