Primary and secondary education perspectives

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by Justin Hitchborn, Mar 7, 2015.

  1. Justin Hitchborn

    Justin Hitchborn Supporting Member

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    It is coming time for my wife and I to start making some choices about our kids' education, and we find ourselves at a bit of a crossroads.

    To grossly over-simplify our recent conversations, we feel that while we believe in the concept and overall value of the public schooling system (we are, after all, products of that system), it is really lacking in some of the areas that have proven to be really important in our lives. There is such a factory mentality where each child in a given age group is expected to perform via arbitrary testing a certain set of tasks to a given standard. There is a total disregard for the kaleidoscope of learning abilities and maturity variations among age groups in an effort to show the world a letter grade classification of ability. Most of us know by now that this is a fairly inadequate method of skill or knowledge evaluation, and it doesn't even begin to address the application of that skill or knowledge in the real world.

    Conversely, there are a wide variety of alternative education methods, all the way from home schooling to private schools to subsidized independant schools. Now, we aren't considering the wild west of education here. Whatever we choose will need to conform to the prescribed learning outcomes handed down from on high because the reality we live in dictates that without a certified diploma, life can get difficult in a hurry. However, it seems like many of the schools we look at lack professionalism (clean facilities, trained teachers, etc), have a chip on their shoulder for the public system and exist almost solely to stick it to the man, or are more interested in making my kids into forest elves than critically thinking professionals. The benefit is that most of these places look at children as individuals, allowing them to accelerate learning in areas that they naturally gravitate towards, while supporting them further with areas that develop more slowly.

    Now, I know that these things are not the sole responsibility of a school system. We ought to be past that by now. That being said...who has gone through this? Are there education professionals on these boards that can lend some perspective? Parents?
     
  2. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Great questions, and ones, I believe, all parents should be asking. I teach higher ed instead of public ed for many of the reasons you mention, and more.

    Many folks have decided to homeschool, or seek out smaller school settings which hold many of these same values. Some charter schools are in the wheelhouse you describe, but charter schools are hit and miss. Some perform better than public schools, some worse, and others are basically the same, except in name. Don't forget online options, also.

    Ask around, do your homework. Your area is going to be a big factor. Big city=more choices, but probably more $. Where I teach, many HS students are concurrent college students, also, so by the time they graduate, they are finished with their basics, and some earn an AA along with their diploma.
     
  3. Ravindave_3600

    Ravindave_3600 Member

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    Pro here, with many years in private education, both as a teacher and in administration. I've pretty much rejected public schooling as a concept because of the herd mentality you describe, the sense that someone thousands of miles away understands what a particular kid needs better than his parents and primary teachers do, and the whole we-have-to-do-it-this-way-or-we-lose-funding ethic. Plus the results tend to not be that good (for a variety of reasons). Those problems are more obvious in same places than others so you can judge your local situation for yourself.

    There's some truth here but, again, you have to judge for yourself what you're getting for your money. I know public schools that aren't clean, and every public school teacher in every failing public school district is state-certified (how's that working for you, downtown Detroit or L.A. or Indianapolis?). I've never seen any school where teachers weren't trained, even though some of them don't require licensing. As for what your child can accomplish in a private school, mine isn't required to be accredited by the state but our standardized test scores are excellent and EVERY graduate has either gone to a good college or intentionally chosen not to. Love your forest elf line, also (even though I'm a Tolkien fan) :)
     
  4. jdalf

    jdalf Member

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    Yep, important topic. We homeschooled our 2 boys, they are grown and married now, doing well. We had a pretty good understanding of the Prussian Model of education and Horace Mann and John Dewey's goals and influence on our system.Public school seems like a factory because that was one goal, assembly line workers, content with mundane tasks, that respond to bells. Of course, there were other goals and we disagreed with them, we had some worldviews we wanted our kids to have that would not have been possible in "the system".

    You might consider if your goal is for your children's education or certification,but I dont think all the world needs a certified diploma. Public School is running on an 1840-ish model, a few things have changed.
     
  5. guitarspaz

    guitarspaz Member

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    The big problem in the public schools, around here at least, is discipline. Let me ask you a question. Did you ever get in any trouble at school for misbehaving? I did a few times. If so, what did you dread most; getting in trouble at school or what was going to happen when your parents found out? I know for me it was the later. Fast forward to 2015. A phone call home about a behavior problem is just as likely to be met with the "parent", if there is a parent, cussing out the teacher or principle as any attempt to correct the child's behavior. Basically, don't bother me. And the teachers get criticized for "not performing". Give me a break.

    So here at least, we don't have the leisure of pontificating various academic philosophies. Just trying to get them through with the three R's. Basically don't have any good options.

    1. take your chances at public school and hope your kid learns something good and doesn't get assaulted that day

    2. home school. Guess the social part of education isn't that important. Better hope you can afford for one parent to not work

    3. Pay high taxes and then pay through the nose for private options which just as often have their on set of problems. Plenty of elitist/racist institutions abound in the rural south.

    Apparently the school systems idea about how to fix this is to throw an ever increasing amount of money at the problem.

    And I think there were a lot of things right about the 1840 model. They've got our kids doing word problems and rudimentary algebra because they too slick and forward thinking to teach algorithmic math. That's just great, except they haven't learned their multiplication tables yet. Instead of giving them a greater insight into what the math means, basically they are just confused as ****. Some of that old school algorithmic stuff just works.
     
  6. chrisjw5

    chrisjw5 Supporting Member

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    I'm a public school teacher, former union president, and this is my last year (11th) because of many of the reasons you described. I came into teaching at 33, after working in the private sector.

    Let me first make some comments about the pros of the public system for you, as a concerned and involved parent:

    Don't judge public ed by the bulk product - you'll be disappointed every time. Instead, consider that there are a lot of good teachers doing great individual work with kids that want to learn and have parents guiding them and pushing them. Sure you have the state tests, but the better teachers are filling the gaps with things like critical thinking exercises built in to their lessons.

    Public ed is, I believe, like college. You'll only get out what you put in and you don't need to go to an Ivy to get a great education. I work in a small, rural district with a poverty rate at 57% (meaning 57% of families fall below the federal poverty rate, as measured by qualifications for free and reduced lunch). In my 11 years, I've had students go to Columbia Journalism, Holy Cross, Oxford (!). One now works as a banker at the Fed and one is a national health reporter. Those are just a few. I also have a ton that dropped out of college, and a bunch that kick around on Main Street, doing nothing but causing trouble. My point: your kids can get out what they put in, and with investment at home, they'll be fine.

    Second, if your kids are good students, they're not going to do anything with the 'general population' but share the halls and caf. I'm not trying to belittle anyone, but many parents worry about their kids being in with the 'bad kids' - the ones with the aloof parents, who don't want to be there, and who are making trouble. Those kids exist, but they're not taking chemistry, anatomy, calculus or AP and honors classes. Make sure your kid is.

    As to the rest, I truly believe that having to exist in that environment is a great preparation for living in the world.... there are all types and you're going to have to deal with it.

    I know some parents who do a great job with home-schooling, but my feeling is that you need to have a high-enough net worth to be full-time teacher - and teaching is about more than reading a lesson to your kid. There are a lot of parents doing home-schooling that are not equipped to. I know too many home-schooled kids who are socially a disaster and have no idea how to interact with people in a social setting. Personally, I don't believe limited exposure to adults is good. As you have to learn to live with troublesome peers, you'll have to learn to live with the occasional poor superior (in this case, teacher). You'll have this situation all of your life.

    As to charters and privates, they ARE hit-and-miss. Some are great. Most aren't. Some are downright bad, filled with teacher rejects that couldn't get a public school job. In PA, the ideal are the Philly Catholic preps - they are really good, but you're paying for it. I have a former student teacher who worked in a Mastery charter school for a year and hated it. No discipline, constant fights in his 4th grade classroom (he was certified 9-12 social studies and was teaching 4th grade science - certs don't apply to charters, they put you where they want you) and zero administrative support.

    In the end, do your homework. Go with what feels right. The only advice I can give you is that, as a caring parent, you can make the public system work for you. You're clearly willing to do the work on the back-end of it, and I can tell you that a concerned parent is the #1 ingredient in the success of a child.

    Good luck.
     
  7. jamiefbolton

    jamiefbolton Supporting Member

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    I've been in the public school system here in Louisiana for about 6 years now. Let me address a few things that may help you...or it may not...

    Public schools are very hit or miss. We are fortunate enough to have a good parish administration who are very supportive and good administration at most schools. I really do feel that our parish strives to develop critical thinking students given the constraints placed upon us by the state Department of Education. Not every parish is like this. (BTW in LA we call a county a parish.) The problems we see stem from state testing. To be quite honest, we aren't educating students, we are teaching them to pass tests. All public schools have mandated testing that are taking precedence over what I believe to be actual education. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't even on the State's radar. It's all about the numbers. The numbers keep you in a job. The numbers keep you out of the the State's crosshairs. The numbers prove just how good a school you have.

    Now you and I see the problem here. The State doesn't. They aren't willing to admit that the system they have created is failing.

    That is the boiled down basic problem. Your students are being taught to pass a test rather than being encouraged to learn and explore.

    I'll give you some examples from my classroom. I teach ancient history to 6th graders (11-12 yr old). This is hunter-gatherers all the way to the Renaissance and Reformation. I have 52 content standards to teach (40 are actually tested in April) plus teach them how to read 4-5 documents and write a multi-paragraph essay. Most of the content standards consist of multiple topics within the standard. All of this has to be done in 30 weeks. So, can you teach that much content with any depth of understanding and have it be fun and engaging? Meh, I'm still working on how to do that best. It's difficult. They get bored with notes, and rightfully so, but I basically get one day with a topic before having to move on because there are so many topics to cover. For example, "Describe the major characteristics of the ancient Greeks." There is so much to unpack in this one standard. That takes days and it's just one standard.

    But beyond the amount of content, it's the fact that there is a state test to be taken in April that I have no clear idea of what is on the test, so I have to prepare them for any content and drill drill drill instead of teaching how to engage in history and have fun with history.

    Ok, enough for now.

    If you can find a good public school that truly tries to educate, then your child will be fine, but that may be difficult considering the constraints placed on them by the State.
     
  8. FiestaRed

    FiestaRed Gold Supporting Member

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    My daughter's public school 5th grade teacher seems more interested in having the class line up over and over again until they are 100 percent quiet. This obviously cuts into class time.

    When in life do you ever line up quietly other than elementary school?
     
  9. chrisjw5

    chrisjw5 Supporting Member

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    Look, if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat? Laddie....


    Jamie - you and I are in roughly the same boat. When you tell the captain that it's sinking, you find out he's the one making waves.
     
  10. urizen

    urizen Gold Supporting Member

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    I retired two years ago from working in the public school system after 33 years of teaching A. P. Lit & Comp (12th grade, usually two periods), A. P. Language Arts and Comp (11th grade, usually two periods), Honors Language Arts (10th grade occasionally), and either regular and/or "college prep" 12th grade and/or 11th grade for a period or two (depending on my A. P. load) for most of my career. I also sometimes sold my prep period to teach an S. A. T. Literature/Language Arts test prep class (a class I also sometimes taught in evening sessions and/or during one or two summer sessions a year).

    I believe in the public school system for more reasons than I can detail here. If you want a panoply of perspective(s) about what's happening in that system as well as with both charter schools and for-profit/privateer schools, you may want to start here: http://dianeravitch.net/ . Even if you perceive a "slant" in some of what you read, it will put you on-track to links for a huge range of positions (and agendas) from other sources.

    Aside from that, I'd highly recommend that you do the following with any school you're thinking of having your child attend:

    A) Make sure that it's accredited for your region* by the accreditation entity recognized as "legitimate" by the U. S. Department of Education. Ask what the term (length) of its current accreditation is, and what comments, conditions, and stipulations were attached to that accreditation.

    B) Make sure all of its administrators (the principal and assistant principals) were classroom teachers in an academic subject for at least six years.

    C) Find out which teachers are known for their love of their respective subject(s), since they'll be the ones most engaged and enthusiastic about the subject in ways that are most likely to engage and motivate their students. By the way, teaching experience at the top of the command chain (the district superintendent, associate and assistant superintendents, and anyone whose office is directly related to some aspect of instruction and instructional delivery) would also be highly desirable.

    D) Trust in this dictum: Educational policy should by created by those who have a background in education and extended experience in teaching in a public school. No one without such background understands what is required and what is practical (and/or pragmatic) to best serve the educational needs of students.







    * There are six regional accreditors involved in education accreditation in the United States.

    Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

    New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CTCI) Commission on Technical and Career Institutions

    Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

    North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) (HLC Higher Learning Commission)

    Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges

    Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC-ACCJC) Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
    (WASC-ACSCU) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities

    Additionally, the Board of Regents of the State of New York is recognized as an accreditor for degree-granting institutions of higher education in the state that designate the agency as their sole or primary accrediting agency. New York is the only state that is eligible to be federally recognized as an accreditor under a grandfather clause in federal law that allows recognition for state agencies if they were recognized as accreditors before October 1, 1991. Through a 1984 Charter with the Board of Regents of the State of New York, the New York State Association of Independent Schools provides accreditation for New York independent schools that are pre-K through 12th grade.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2015
  11. fisticuffs

    fisticuffs Member

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    Teachers have to teach to the test because we've tied it more and more closely to the schools funding and/or the teachers continued employment. If public schools have declined over the years it's a direct results of certain groups trying to destroy them, and succeeding. I had a fine public school where I met and experienced people from all walks of life. If my single mother were forced to pay for private school, even with a subsidy, I wouldn't have probably gone at all.

    I fear my children and future generations will either be isolated in expensive uncountable private schools with near zero diversity or isolated in underfunded public schools rife with the problems brought on by poverty.

    Poverty is the real problem. You want a good public school? Move somewhere expensive.
     
  12. urizen

    urizen Gold Supporting Member

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    The post above has a strong basis in current fact and history.

    Another ominously burgeoning issue is what happens when education (as an "institution") is seen as a ripe opportunity for monetization; there are solid reasons why a disturbing number of those entities pushing for privatization and "market approaches" with "market strategies " and "market solutions", could be more accurately characterized as privateers.
     
  13. chrisjw5

    chrisjw5 Supporting Member

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    Yessir. And you already mentioned Diane Ravitch's blog, but for anyone interested in why things are going the way they're going, Google David Coleman Common Core.
     
  14. Scott Miller

    Scott Miller Member

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    My kids went to an inner-city poor public school. Nobody cared about it, so there were some fantastic teachers who were free to do exactly what they wanted, so it was a great school. They got visitors from all over the country.

    What we learned is that you need to be involved, find out what the good schools are, the good teachers, and so on. You don't want to be that annoying parent, but you do want to be that involved parent.
     
  15. sundog964

    sundog964 Supporting Member

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    This analysis misses the mark heavily IMHO. Here in California, my first daughter went through the public school system. They weren't taught to standardized tests, but were taught by Union teachers who cared much more about their wages and pensions than they did for the kids education. The failings of the administrative structure was very evident. It was in one of the highest net worth areas in the Bay Area, Los Gatos, and for most of the parents it was babysitting for their little snowflakes.

    My daughter went to 4 different schools, every one of them was undergoing major renovations, even though they were less than 40 years old, and in many cases less than 20 years old. Just wanted to make it "nicer". So that money wasn't going toward education. In HS my daughter needed a special plan due to learning disabilities that became more pronounced, and I had to get a lawyer to threaten the school because they wouldn't do anything to put a plan together for her, even though we had recommendations from professionals in learning disabilities. Then they wanted to send her off to a school for "special kids", read stoners and miscreants, right.

    And then as a Junior, I went to a meeting with her "guidance counselor". Some stoner idiot from Santa Cruz. My daughter wanted to know what she should do to prepare for a few careers she was interested in. His answer was that she didn't need to worry about knowing what she should do, just go on to college and figure it out there. He asked me when I knew what I wanted to be, and I told him, "when I was 9 and watched the moon landing, I knew I wanted to design the rockets for NASA." Which is what I ended up doing. His response was, "Oh, you're one of THOSE people".

    This is the problem with public schools, not money. But a lack of accountability for performance, like at any other job, except government jobs. And concerned only about the money.

    My second daughter is now going through private schools, and there are many. It was a tough decision, but we found one that wasn't trying to teach the kindergarteners like college students, or felt like a cult. But it is reasonably expensive, but they don't charge enough to cover their costs. They require parent participation, and do a lot of fund raisers. And a lot of high earning alumni and community members make up the difference. But I've never seen such a high emphasis on educating each individual child, not pushing them through a cookie cutter system. Their philosophy is that they exist to help the parents educate their children, not to do it for the parents.

    Until the public system starts to do something like this, as a lot of charter schools do, it will always be a loosing battle.

    Not that I have an opinion or anything! :tapedshut
     
  16. Route234

    Route234 Member

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    Im happy with public school for my younger son. Hes doing really well. We are very involved in his education which Ive found is the only key no matter what school you put them in. People mistakenly focus on the schools, which I get, but the real education of a child happens from the home they are raised in and very few schools can bridge that gap. Id be very wary of Charter schools since the statistics are just not kind to them, they tend to be no better than public schools and many of the Charter schools and their leadership all have ties to billion dollar big businesses (which is really what the "reform movement" is all about, not teaching your kids better).
     
  17. gigs

    gigs Member

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    Can only speak from my experiences. My wife taught elementary ed in a public school for about 20 yrs (now retired). She also taught two years in a private, very expensive school prior to going to teach at a public school (with a 10 yr break when our two kids were young). I'm also speaking from raising two kids in a public school setting (they are both out of college now).

    She will tell you that the most important factors in a child's education are the parents support of education, their help with the kids at home in education and the environment and encouragement the parents provide at the home. So the most important thing is the parents. Then comes the school system. She has worked in both private and public.

    She will say the differences between the two are:

    • Class size (smaller in private) which means more attention per kid per teacher
    • Opportunities for interesting extra curricular academic activities and programs (more so in private cuz tuition is very high and it goes into extra programs).
    • Quality of teachers is the about same between the two (they both have their share of bad apples, don't assume that private schools teachers are better, some are very disgruntled at the lack of pay and the long hours, many are their cuz their kids get to go to the private school for free)
    • Teacher pay is significantly different (public much higher paying) but that doesn't always translate to better teachers in public school, but not worse either.
    • Higher teacher turn-over in private schools
    • Parental support better in private schools, not as many misbehaving kids there. Private school can kick them out, public schools can't and pass on the problems to the teachers.
    • Parents tend to be much better off financially in private schools
    From a teaching perspective, she would say public schools are a harder job at the elementary level because of the mainstreaming of children into the class room, giving a wide range of child's abilities, parental support, etc. that each teacher must deal with and account for.

    So when we had kids, we decided to buy a house in a neighborhood that had a good school district reputation. We paid more for the house and paid more in taxes for it. Rather than live in a neighborhood with bad school reputation and pay for private schooling.

    We believe we provided the best environment at home that we could for our kids and always tried to support their education and encourage them. Also coupled with paying more for a home and higher taxes in a decent reputation public school district. It worked out great. We figured if we did that, the other problems associated with public schools would be surmountable and they were.

    Other note of interest, my wife as able to see some kids who came from private schools to public and vice versa. She did not detect any distinct advantage either way from the kids she taught in those circumstances. She would say that the parents (and the support they provide) of the kids are the major over-riding factor.
     
  18. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    Your experience is a pretty uncommon one from what I've seen. I worked in a couple of districts, and several schools before moving to higher ed. I'm not doubting you, but I simply have not heard or seen what you describe.

    My ex and I moved to the highest rated district in KC so our kids would get the best public education available. It turned out to be a good choice. All but our youngest went to college. She had ADD and simply didn't like school.

    Charter schools are a good idea, in their original form. They were to be the testing grounds for various ideas and models. See what works and apply it elsewhere. Some have evolved into a privatization of education where profits need to be made, like any other corporate entity. This is decidedly NOT in the best interests of educating our kids. We have tried unsuccessfully to apply a military and business model to education, and they simply have not produced the results desired.

    Teaching to the test is idiocy, self defeating, and frankly, multiple choice tests are not a good assessment of learning. However, number crunchers like them because they crank out measurable data. Public ed is moving in the wrong direction, and this is one of the reasons why we remain behind our peer nations in this area.
     
  19. urizen

    urizen Gold Supporting Member

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    There are diverse individual experiences that can color one's perception of a general situation; generally schools are renovated for practical utilitarian purposes meant to serve and benefit the student population as well as facilitating more effective instructional delivery. The emphasis on STEMs curricula, the implementation of un-vetted and (often) unrealistic federal testing mandates tied to federal funding and economic penalties, the rapid and accelerating pace of technological advances that strain school infrastructures and/or rapidly render aspects of infrastructure obsolete*, and the increasing partisan and polarizing politicization of policies impacting education have had deleterious effect on education itself as a necessary and vital public institution.

    By the way, California's teachers' associations (which may be characterized as "unions") have a vested interest in keeping teacher salaries commensurate with the higher costs of living in California as well as (theoretically) helping to retain teachers who have benefitted from the many practical advantages of experience (as opposed to the 50+ percent rate of new teachers who leave the profession within their first five years due to working conditions and/or work/community environment and/or job stress). At the same time, those associations have also fought to serve and benefit our diverse populations more effectively in augmenting the scope and quality of teacher education, training, certification, and licensing as essential to improving instructional delivery and resources. In addition, those associations strive mightily in improving the physical and social environment of our public schools (go on the CTA website to see documented evidence of that for yourself; what benefits students benefits teachers and society as a whole).

    P. S. Charter schools do not have to take (or keep) students with learning disabilities.They also have ways of "filtering" out troublesome/"difficult"/low-performing students.


    * As a (to me, egregiously regrettable) consequence of the implementation of the Common Core, and the subsequent student training for and application of the actual test, our school library was systematically divested of all its books, magazines, newspapers, and bookshelves over the course of the past seven years and turned into a computer-access resource (along with six other classrooms) to accommodate the requirement that all students take the Common Core State Standards test at-site on-line on school computers. Of course, as that transition occurred, we lost our certificated Library Science librarian as the shelves and stacks were reduced and finally eliminated. Her position was filled for six years by an aide (who also served double-duty in a reprographics function), and (of course) the cost of retrofitting, upgrading, and purchasing the equipment (and attendant security and support services, both immediate/local and remote was quite remarkable, especially in view of the fact that our classrooms could legally have up to 42 (in some years, 44) students per period using textbooks that were anywhere from four to ten years out-of-date and beaten-up by their travels through the hands of so many students successively in that time.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2015
  20. sundog964

    sundog964 Supporting Member

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    All good points. It is difficult to be a teacher in CA. But the CA teachers union routinely has major fights with any reforms that would help the kids, and not the union. I'm done with excuses for their behavior, they are as much a problem as the lack of parent involvement, which in the schools around us is rife.

    In some of the schools around our cities, they have taken some of the land of the schools, and built townhouses and sell them at cost to teachers from the district. It is a good solution, but isn't going to fix the issue of high cost of living.

    I have taught at San Jose State, and was required to join the union in order to become a teacher. And that was for one class. What a waste, and I could not refuse.

    All of our friends in our neighborhood send their kids to private schools. It is simply to avoid the lowest common denominator education that happens in CA unless your district has a median income of $200K or more. The elementary school that our daughter would go to is 80% ESL, and 70% subsidized lunches. And we pay $7500/year in property taxes. The problem is that there are very high density apartments that feed into the schools.

    We are looking into a new house in a district that has schools rated 9 and 10. Because even though the property taxes would go up considerably, it would still be less than our tuition at the private schools.

    And my mom, and sister were teachers, so I know how important and undervalued they can be. But the situation in CA is caused by many factors.
     

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