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    AO Guinness Monster MURACU's Avatar
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    schools in americia

    Ran across this on the bbc web site and though it might provide an interesting discussion. source
    So what do our americain collogues think and is there any here who have experiance with the edison schools? Here is the story :

    In his weekly opinion column, A Point of View, Harold Evans writes of innovative attempts to improve the US's state schools.

    We tend to think of American innovators in terms of electronic wizards and science boffins conjuring up modern marvels like the personal computer and the internet, but this is a restless country where change-makers are everywhere.


    US school buses
    I'd like to tell you about two innovators I know - I call them the Odd Couple - who have dared to touch the emotionally charged third rail of American life - the neighbourhood school. .
    First, Chris Whittle. He grew up in the tiny hill town of Etowah, Tennessee and learned his three Rs, like everyone else in the 50s, at public school. In America that doesn't mean a fee-paying Eton, but a state school, run by locally elected boards of education.
    Whittle graduated from the University of Tennessee where he struck his first gold, publishing guides to help university freshmen find their way around their new locale. Everybody had a decided view then about the up and coming Whittle.
    The schemes he scribbled on yellow legal pads were the work of a visionary genius - or of a clever huckster. Later both admirers and critics felt vindicated. He brilliantly salvaged the foundering Esquire magazine, but he flirted, multiple times, with financial ruin - both corporate and personal.

    Today, he asks Americans to consider this question: How would they react if a thousand commercial airliners crashed every day? Or if every night 40 million homes were blacked by power failure?

    Catastrophes
    Whittle, a cheerfully ebullient man in a jaunty bow tie, poses these scary hypotheticals to dramatise the prolonged trauma of American public education, as documented in periodic reports by the US Department of Education.
    Failure rates as high 30% that would produce such catastrophes in the air and in the home have been manifest in thousands of America's 97,000 public schools. State schools in Britain and other major industrialized countries have their headaches but they have been outperforming the superpower's for 20 years.
    In the US 15m children, most of them poor and of colour, have been unable to pass even the most basic state tests in reading and maths. There are many fine schools, but many clusters of shame.
    Scattered about New York state, for instance, there are 13 schools where not one student is proficient in maths. Not one. The Department of Education sounded the alarm in 1983: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war."
    Chris Whittle decided he would try to do something. In his view, the children weren't failing because they were dim. They weren't failing because schools were starved of money. They were failing, Whittle believed, because the organisation of education had fallen behind major social changes.
    What happened? A lot of things. Fewer bright women entered teaching when careers opened up in better-paid law, medicine and business.
    There was uncollected garbage, aimless bad behaviour, an atmosphere of decay and disorder - Nobody had a smile, not the teachers, not the kids

    Benno Schmidt on public schools
    "White flight" to the suburbs left city schools with a majority of poor children of colour, black and Latino, and too many of them in broken families. From the 60s on, the dogma was that they should not be expected to reach hitherto expected standards in reading and maths.
    A national neurosis of low expectations for all students developed. It conspired with inflexibility in teacher unions who customarily insist that experienced teachers have a right to choose the best schools, leaving the blackboard jungles of the inner cities to the beginners.
    On top of all this, as schools declined, the middle classes deserted them so the pressure for reform was reduced.
    To get a taste of the trenches, Whittle volunteered to be a two-year tutor in a New York city school. But for a moment we will leave him there, chalk in hand, and take a highly relevant trip along Broadway, New York to meet our second innovator.

    Stars
    To the world Broadway at 42nd street in New York is show business, but if you travel Broadway uptown to 116th street you arrive at another universe of stars - the campus of Columbia University.
    When the Department of Education warned of the crisis in 1983, Benno Schmidt was the dean of the Law School at the age of 38.
    He used to take a break off campus walking the district and invariably came back depressed. "Out of curiosity," he told me, "I'd drop in on a public school. There was uncollected garbage, aimless bad behaviour, an atmosphere of decay and disorder. Nobody had a smile, not the teachers, not the kids."
    In 1986 Benno was elevated to the presidency of Yale University, but there, too, when he wandered off campus in New Haven his heart sank.
    Fast forward now to the summer of 1991 and a barbecue in the Hamptons at the summer home of Ed Victor, the literary agent. My wife and I happened to be invited and found it was Whittle who was on the griddle.

    He was advancing the conclusion he had reached: the public school system had become so ossified generally that only comprehensive large scale private sector partnerships with school districts would bring the flexibility and, accountability, needed to rescue children from failure.
    Ed Doctorow, the celebrated author of Ragtime, was incandescent. "You want to make a profit out of a public service. It's outrageous."
    In vain did Whittle say there would be no school fees and what would some profit matter if thousands more children achieved basic literacy.
    His ideas sounded so off the wall. Double the pay of teachers and principals. Pay according to merit and results not years. Insist on standards. Invest in research on just how children learn. Extend the short school year designed for an agrarian society. Lengthen the school day.
    Cool probing questions came from another guest: it was Benno Schmidt. He had never met Whittle before. A few days later he agreed to have lunch with him at Mory's, a Yale watering hole.

    Passion
    Whittle plunged in: "Leave Yale. Come to Tennessee and help me plan a national partnership of private enterprise and public education. We'll call it the Edison Project."
    This was like asking the chairman of General Electric to come and mend a fuse. "I thought Chris was a little crazed," Benno remembers. "I said No, but what I'd seen of the schools had moved me. I came from a privileged background and felt the inequity of that."
    If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war

    Dept of Education warning, 1983
    Over 12 months Schmidt reasoned and shamed himself into giving up his stellar presidency. His prestige and Whittle's passion got the project Edison off the ground.
    Now 15 years later, Whittle and Schmidt celebrate success after some bumpy roads. In one crisis, Whittle was fired by his own company, then rehired. Edison does have its critics. Not every Edison school has worked, but looking at the performance of their 157 schools they claim an average improvement rate that is twice that of comparable public schools.
    Not only that. Edison - as the country's largest partners of public schools - has spearheaded a movement. Other competitive private enterprise ventures have sprung up.
    Go-ahead Philadelphia has contracts with four, including Edison, and reports nearly tripling the number of schools meeting government improvement standards. There is a long way to go, no doubt, but the Edison ideas have entered the mainstream of the national conversation.
    Maybe Benno and Chris - or Chris and Benno - are an odd couple, the cerebral former president of Yale and the entrepreneur, but together they've survived the jeers that the inert always inflict on the innovative - and they've improved the lives of thousands of children.


    .
    \"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.\"
    \"The reason we are so pleased to find other people\'s secrets is that it distracts public attention from our own.\"
    Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)

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    AO Curmudgeon rcgreen's Avatar
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    Americans are so inconsistent. If government took control of the
    news or entertainment media we would be outraged and see a conspiracy,
    but we see nothing sinister in gov't control of primary schools, in fact
    taking pride in it. You can't expect a monopoly to serve the peoples' interests.

    The problem is that we have an irrational fear of "elitism" and "snobbery". The superior
    performance of private schools is, ironically, held against them.
    I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.

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    AO Guinness Monster MURACU's Avatar
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    Actually in ireland the state also controls most of the educational system but the system is more competition orientated. I never really understood the idea of "leave no child behind". The impression I got from the article and from the various discussion here and onther sites is that the biggest problems are mis-management and funding.
    \"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.\"
    \"The reason we are so pleased to find other people\'s secrets is that it distracts public attention from our own.\"
    Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)

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    AO Curmudgeon rcgreen's Avatar
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    For as long as I can remember, the schools have been very complacent
    and self-satisfied. They have received astronomical increases in funding
    over the last 40 years or so but are never satisfied. The recent reforms have
    failed because, instead of being a spur for improvement, they have driven
    teachers to adopt a strategy of limiting education to only get the students
    through the standardized tests

    Whatever you try, they don't seem to want to act in good faith. When you give them
    unlimited funds, they squander it. If you put pressure on them to perform better,
    they just coach the kids for the tests. What are you going to do to restore a love
    of knowledge and learning to a bunch of teachers who are nothing but unionized
    state bureaucrats with lifetime tenure?
    I came in to the world with nothing. I still have most of it.

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    AO Guinness Monster MURACU's Avatar
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    I cant really talk about what has gone wrong in the americain system but as a parrelle, even thought here in france there is a very good public school sytem, there are some schools that I wouldn't send my son to. One thing that is similar is the fact it seems that the kids are more taught the "right" way to do things and not why they are done that way. It is getting rarer that they are asked to show initiative in the learning procces.
    \"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between.\"
    \"The reason we are so pleased to find other people\'s secrets is that it distracts public attention from our own.\"
    Oscar Wilde(1854-1900)

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    I'd say the problem with US public schools (especially in urban areas) is social, not educational. In many cases yes, the teachers are merely machines programming students to pass x,y,z test--not aquire true knowledge. However, the overall problem I think lays with the students. I was never a nerd or geek throughout school, but I was always an intellectual. I can remember very often being shunned for using a more robust and articulate vocabulary, participating in class, or even something you're supposed to do--as in perform well. As early as the 10th grade I had more college level friends than high school friends because of this. I partied more than anyone of my own grade level--but because I actually used my brain, I was outcast for it because they didn't label me "cool enough". That, is where the problem is. Much like RCgreen says:
    Originally posted here by rcgreen
    The problem is that we have an irrational fear of "elitism" and "snobbery". The superior
    performance of private schools is, ironically, held against them.
    Pop-culture is devouring the US's youth; many of them only concerned with materialistic pursuits and social appearance. Personality, intelligence, independant thought, maturity have all become taboo. What's happening with alot of the youth in the US today is directly comparable to the famed book, Fahrenheit 451. That's why there is such a growing division between the rich and poor in this country. The people who actually do give a damn succeed because they pursue the necessary components to do so. Those who don't just...sit at home after they graduate high school and work the same Service Class job they had since they were 17.

    I believe the school system is fine. No matter what you do or how much research & money you through at the problem, it will never change until the mentallity of the students towards intelligence, education, and knowledge change. Therein lies the problem with US schools imho.
    \"Greatness only comes at great risk.\" ~ Personal/Generic

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    I'll knock down every county or state tax through a vote that comes my way for pouring money in a jacked up system, and the system isn't fine IMHO. Look what people pay for when they go private, a controlled environment ideal for..... guess what? Learning! You're not going to find overfilled classrooms where the teachers primary job is to "control the room" instead of the original task. You're going to find an in tune establishment where tardiness is paid for with money by adding on the tuition. Isolation of things or people that disrupt the main goal. Standards, policies, procedures......being held accountable.....these are paid for building blocks for early maturity. You want your kids to come out of high school adept and amenable. There is more than enough money to do this with the current system. Personally we need more teachers and smaller classrooms PERIOD!

    And while we're at it, I'd like to address the right-brain/left-brain issue. The fact of the matter is some kids are left-brain dominant and some are right-brain dominant "thinkers". This issue isn't addressed at all and most teaching is geared toward the left-brain thinker.


    Example: Two 5th grade children (Left brain dominant and the other Right brain dominant) read a small book.....one kid remembers a lot of the book and the other doesn't. In our current system the Right brain dominant child will "fall through the cracks" because the education method was geared more toward the left-brain dominant people. There is nothing wrong with the Right brain dominant child. If he watched a video on the book he'd remember just as much as the other if not more. Both hemispheres of the brain can be exercised and eventually will need to be.



    Left brain dominant individuals are more orderly, literal, articulate, and to the point. They are good at understanding directions and anything that is explicit and logical. They can have trouble comprehending emotions and abstract concepts, they can feel lost when things are not clear, doubting anything that is not stated and proven.

    Right brain dominant individuals are more visual and intuitive. They are better at summarizing multiple points, picking up on what's not said, visualizing things, and making things up. They can lack attention to detail, directness, organization, and the ability to explain their ideas verbally, leaving them unable to communicate effectively.

    Well said RCg

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    Wow... right brain dominant definitly describes me... and guess what... I'm not a great student at all! I'll just barely be graduating high school. Granted my high school is one of the top public schools in the country, but still... That's why it's imporant for people like me to find a niche that they like and study it well... if they study it well they can be a real authority on that topic, at least IMHO. I knew about the whole concept about right brain and left brain dominant, but I never looked into it nor was I very interested... but that is interesting...
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    Originally posted here by The Duck
    Wow... right brain dominant definitly describes me... and guess what... I'm not a great student at all! I'll just barely be graduating high school. Granted my high school is one of the top public schools in the country, but still... That's why it's imporant for people like me to find a niche that they like and study it well... if they study it well they can be a real authority on that topic, at least IMHO. I knew about the whole concept about right brain and left brain dominant, but I never looked into it nor was I very interested... but that is interesting...
    "If a person studies a subject for just 15 minutes a day in a year he will be an expert, and in five years he may be a national expert." ~Einstein

    Take this test and let's see how much your are: http://similarminds.com/brain.html

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    Brain Lateralization Test Results

    Right Brain |||||||||||||| 60%
    Left Brain |||||||||| 40%
    *results won't usually add up to 100% as this test measures each side seperately

    Left brain dominant individuals are more orderly, literal, articulate, and to the point. They are good at understanding directions and anything that is explicit and logical. They can have trouble comprehending emotions and abstract concepts, they can feel lost when things are not clear, doubting anything that is not stated and proven.



    Right brain dominant individuals are more visual and intuitive. They are better at summarizing multiple points, picking up on what's not said, visualizing things, and making things up. They can lack attention to detail, directness, organization, and the ability to explain their ideas verbally, leaving them unable to communicate effectively.

    Overall you appear to be Right Brain Dominant

    I knew it! ...

    Thanks for the test!
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