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Longer school days for Americans?


Enraged Slith
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http://www.eduinreview.com/blog/2009/03/obama-proposes-longer-school-days-extended-school-year/

 

I hope they know what they're doing.

 

I can't really think of a case where adding time is an effective way of increasing productivity, at least, without ensuring that time already spent is being used appropriately. High school was a very stressful time for me. I imagine I might have gone insane if I had been there any longer. I'm really glad I'm out of grade school.

 

EDIT: Old article, but it was brought up on AOL today. I hate AOL.

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Why should that be the decision of the federal government? Keep the feds out of it. (Side note: Stupid Bush and his No Child Left Behind Act)

 

I learn because I choose to learn, and most of my learning happens outside of the classroom. Why should we keep forcing people to go to school if they don't want to learn to begin with?

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Alright, Obama, sure. You're proposing tacking on an additional ten days per semester to the curriculum, at the expense of summer vacation. However, the way curriculums are set up, for the current year-length, teachers necessarily wouldn't actually be teaching more than they are currently.

 

Some teachers I've had have really raced against the curriculum, mostly history teachers. However, most teachers I've had, especially math and science teachers, have no trouble keeping up with the curriculum. Not to mention that having to reconstruct every curriculum, for every class, would most likely not result in any real added benefit, unless you consider bureaucratic headaches and nightmares to be a benefit.

 

Lengthening class periods, however, is a totally reasonable idea.

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Originally Posted By: Goldenking

Lengthening class periods, however, is a totally reasonable idea.

Our school used to have 102 minute block periods. It didn't work out because a lot of kids simply don't have the attention span, and teachers would frequently complain about having to make a lesson plan for such a long class period (And much of the time, the lesson plan didn't actually accommodate the whole period and we'd end up with twenty to thirty minutes of free time).
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I agree that ten extra days isn't going to solve anything, but it certainly isn't going to make anything worse. (In Boston, I know the reaction it would get: "that's two extra weeks when they aren't on the streets!")

 

There are always ways to expand the boundaries of what you teach, or just to teach something better, given more time. Always, always.

 

I will say that this is at least a more constructive effort at improving the education system than we have seen from a president in -- since before Reagan at any rate. The problem is that our education system has taken so many missteps that it really needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. We have a lot of successful components that can be kept, but the basic organization needs to change.

 

A few major criticisms I would suggest need correcting most:

 

1) Tenure, originally intended to buffer teachers from undue influence of the politically influential, is clearly irrelevant to that purpose. Instead it contributes to complacency and lack of innovation, especially among teachers in higher paid public school settings.

 

2) One size fits all educational standards make sense in younger grades, but by the time you get to high school, they're ridiculous. Practically all of Europe splits teenagers up depending on whether their inclinations are more academic, or more towards technical or trade studies. I don't know why we don't do that. It's an obvious economic boon, and it lessens problems with truancy among students forced into taking classes that they aren't interested in. Number sense and numerical operations are useful for everyone; algebra isn't, much as I hate to say so. Likewise, reading is useful for everyone; forcing people to read Shakespeare is counterproductive, much as I hate to say that, too.

 

3) In most parts of the country (and No Child Left Behind definitely made this one worse) teaching standards -- and testing standards -- emphasize procedural knowledge over understanding, especially in the younger grades when it should really be the reverse. This becomes obvious in math when kids can do operations but have a flimsy understanding of place value, or can't translate intuitively between area and multiplation.

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Originally Posted By: Excalibur
I learn because I choose to learn, and most of my learning happens outside of the classroom. Why should we keep forcing people to go to school if they don't want to learn to begin with?


Because most of us are not okay with letting people grow up to be unemployable?
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Longer school days risk exhausting students. (They also risk putting over-enriched children with helicopter parents into crisis territory, but the idea isn't aimed at the hypercompetitive college-bound student.) Longer days with some breaks, though? Not a bad idea. That isn't what this is about, though, and just extending the school day might well just send truancy even higher.

 

Paring down vacation to add more days, though? About time. Summer has become an absurdity. For those with wealth and inclination, there is a whole industry of summer camps and programs. Some are indeed fun and/or enlightening. Many students, unfortunately, aren't having such good experiences. They are, in fact, on the street, or in front of the TV, or twiddling their thumbs at home.

 

More days of school could let the curriculum slow down so everyone can keep up, or it might let teachers teach more than just the tests.

 

—Alorael, whose response to the original complaint about extra time and diminishing returns on productivity is simply that schools are productive. Not as much as they should be, certainly, but adding more days might help. It is, as Slarty says, something of a stopgap measure, but America has some big gaps to stop right now.

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@Alorael - my family doesn't have the money to put me into a "summer camp" (not that I would go), but at least I stay active and hold down a job (at the age of 14, which is something I'm regularly complimented on) which is at least part-time. Really, a lot of kids are lazy and do nothing because that's how they want to spend their time. Its not all the "big bad government's" fault; a fair amount lies with the kids themselves.

 

I would love if the European of basing kids by their strengths. I don't like school, but I love learning.

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Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Originally Posted By: Excalibur
I learn because I choose to learn, and most of my learning happens outside of the classroom. Why should we keep forcing people to go to school if they don't want to learn to begin with?


Because most of us are not okay with letting people grow up to be unemployable?

I don't think it makes sense to not attend school either, but I think that's my choice to make and not other people's.

Originally Posted By: Slarty

2) One size fits all educational standards make sense in younger grades, but by the time you get to high school, they're ridiculous. Practically all of Europe splits teenagers up depending on whether their inclinations are more academic, or more towards technical or trade studies.

Belgium, for example, lacks our system in which students are assigned to public schools based on where they live. We end up having schools whose students are mostly poor, or mostly upper-class, etc. Letting parents decide what public school their child attends forces schools to compete for students (and funding, consequently).
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Originally Posted By: Alorael
More days of school could let the curriculum slow down so everyone can keep up, or it might let teachers teach more than just the tests.


Or, perhaps the most likely, it could have the school administration add an extra unit to be taught on the test. Which would fail to alleviate either of the issues you brought up.
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Slarty. I have to agree with many things. While I have no experience myself, I've heard people talk about the tenure problem. Its is most definitely true. Also, I've had wretched teachers who were friends with the principal. I went to complain about a grade I got (a "D" with absolutely no explanation) only to later learn that the principal and teacher were good friends. Politics sucks.

 

I wish we had more opportunities in school. I enjoy math, science, and band. Foreign language is good. I, strangely, enjoy history as well. But a required 4 years of reading and analyzing ancient books, plays, and the most random poems ever? No thank you. Can I have space in my schedule for comp sci?

 

I happen to have had a few really good teachers who taught understanding, rather than to the test. It still is a large problem, however. AP classes are really bad about this. Most teachers say: this is what you'll need for the AP. A few of them add on after that, but the classes are almost always taught to the test.

 

I'd love education reform, but first we need educated people to reform it. We're not getting educated people, so we can't have them to reform it. Nasty circle.

 

[EDIT] As for time, I think that something needs to be done. We get ample breaks where I live, thanks to the high Jewish population. First semester is loaded with Jewish holidays! Like I said earlier, we have relatively short school days, so I could go for a little more. I don't think summer is a waste, I think most people waste summer. This past summer, I took courses in chemistry and precalculus. I am now in 2 AP classes that I wouldn't be in otherwise. Also, summer break is a plus for teachers.

 

Rather than shortening summer break, I think schools need to be more active in keeping students involved in things during the summer. Extra electives during the summer? If the program is half decent, I'm in.

 

(Note, I am the weird exception who actually likes learning)

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Originally Posted By: Excalibur
Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Because most of us are not okay with letting people grow up to be unemployable?

I don't think it makes sense to not attend school either, but I think that's my choice to make and not other people's.

On a certain level I agree with you. However, if school really became optional, there would need to be some serious incentive systems in place to prevent a whole lot of other problems from coming up. Our school system has lots of problems, but if half the teenagers in the country stopped attending entirely, there would be more competition for lower-requisite jobs, resulting in higher unemployment; and there would be massive numbers of bored, unsupervised teenagers around, resulting in greatly increased gang activity (that's how it is, like it or not); and both of those in turn would feed into a big cycle of poverty and ignorance.

Originally Posted By: Excalibur
Belgium, for example, lacks our system in which students are assigned to public schools based on where they live. We end up having schools whose students are mostly poor, or mostly upper-class, etc. Letting parents decide what public school their child attends forces schools to compete for students (and funding, consequently).

Potentially, yes. Boston actually employs this system on a limited scale -- within the city parents can request that their kid go to any public school, and people who don't make requests are not usually assigned by geography. This (very expensive, thanks to school bus costs) program was actually put into place to try and sever links between gang activity and schools. It was pretty successful on that front. I don't know if it's improved school quality at all, but I do know that the transportation costs now make up an ENORMOUS part of the budget that would otherwise go to, you know, educating the kids.
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Originally Posted By: Master1
(Note, I am the weird exception who actually likes learning)

And there's the rub. Kids who are self-motivated to learn require VASTLY fewer resources from teachers and schools to sustain their education. Education reform (on this level) won't really benefit them, since they will learn one way or another. (Once we get to the point of teaching number sense rather than numerical operations, and so on, that will benefit them.)
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Originally Posted By: Lord Safey
Originally Posted By: Thuryl
Because most of us are not okay with letting people grow up to be unemployable?


School doesn't force people to learn it merely gives them the opportunity too. If someone doesn't want to learn they are not going too.


QFT

I agree since I remember the idiots that were dumped into the state university system. You couldn't simplify the material enough for some of them if you taught it at elementary school level.

Most of that extra time is going to be wasted on testing to see if the students are learning anything. There's more than enough time now for teaching, it's just not being used effectively.
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Originally Posted By: Randomizer
Most of that extra time is going to be wasted on testing to see if the students are learning anything. There's more than enough time now for teaching, it's just not being used effectively.

Anyone want to look up how many days are spent in public high schools in California on standardized testing? You might want to eat something first, just so that you'll have something to vomit up instead of suffering through dry heaves.
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The schooling enviroment is not suited for a lot of children, especially young boys, who learn a lot more through exploration, or so I've read. These kids are especially hard for teachers to handle, and I can imagine a healthy increase in the number of teacher suicides if these kids are forced to sit in school any longer than they already have to.

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Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon
Yup. It used to be that teachers and schools were trusted to educate. Not so much anymore. It amazes me that anyone would want to teach high school anymore.

On the one hand, some standard for comparison is important. Colleges care because they want to know who they're admitting. States should care because they need to know if the students are actually learning. But constant and total testing is not so good either. It's the utilitarian's dilemma: how much time do you spend analyzing and strategizing your success at the cost of actually spending time producing success?

Originally Posted By: Enraged Slith
The schooling enviroment is not suited for a lot of children, especially young boys, who learn a lot more through exploration, or so I've read. These kids are especially hard for teachers to handle, and I can imagine a healthy increase in the number of teacher suicides if these kids are forced to sit in school any longer than they already have to.

So let little children be little children in school. If school were engaging to them, they'd learn more and be happier to spend more time there. I remember having a good time as a little kid in school, but I also didn't actually realize that half my classes were classes and not playtime with friends by a different name until years later.

Of course, back then we were also allowed to spend recess playing in the woods by the school and building forts out of logs, abandoned carpets, and old tires. That's both dangerous and unhygienic, so it couldn't happen now.

Originally Posted By: Sss-Chah
yet another of obama's plans that are cost inefficient.

Actually, I'm not sure how much it would cost. You'd increase teachers' pay a bit to cover extra time, but it's not like extra facilities would be required. And if you have a more efficient idea, please share. Expensive is not synonymous with bad when it's also necessary.

—Alorael, who is quite sure that some kind of educational overhaul is necessary right now. America isn't really in danger of falling from its throne in science and technology thanks to budgets and brain drain, but American children are certainly receiving no favors from public education when they're competing with the rest of the world (brain drain).
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Originally Posted By: Warning: May contain Alorael
On the one hand, some standard for comparison is important. Colleges care because they want to know who they're admitting. States should care because they need to know if the students are actually learning. But constant and total testing is not so good either. It's the utilitarian's dilemma: how much time do you spend analyzing and strategizing your success at the cost of actually spending time producing success?


SAT/ACT, PSAT, AP tests.

That's it. If colleges need more, then they should spend more time on the selection process. Demand more essays. Demand 3rd party references.

Why should the state care if students are meeting some minimum educational level? Oh wait, they don't. Students are free to leave school at any time, with parental permission. The only reason states have a meddling finger in this at all is they have set up a taxation/disbursement system which gives them purse-string control over how our education system is run. Gone is the community level of control, excepting the school committee, to the detriment of our students. The states need to know their money is spent well because they decided they needed to know. That is a pretty poor reason.

Anyhow, secondary education is optional. You don't need to do anything more than read, write, and do rudimentary arithmetic to meet the skillset qualifications for most jobs in America. The rest is gravy. Expensive, expensive gravy.
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Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon
You don't need to do anything more than read, write, and do rudimentary arithmetic to meet the skillset qualifications for most jobs in America.
Yet I've seen applications for a lot of those jobs, and many of them say something on the order of: "Any candidates who do not have at least a bachelor's degree or higher need not apply." I've also seen things like: "Any candidates who do not have at least X years of experience need not apply." And those are just for entry-level positions!
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Originally Posted By: Warning: May contain Alorael

Originally Posted By: Sss-Chah
yet another of obama's plans that are cost inefficient.

Actually, I'm not sure how much it would cost. You'd increase teachers' pay a bit to cover extra time, but it's not like extra facilities would be required. And if you have a more efficient idea, please share. Expensive is not synonymous with bad when it's also necessary.

—Alorael, who is quite sure that some kind of educational overhaul is necessary right now. America isn't really in danger of falling from its throne in science and technology thanks to budgets and brain drain, but American children are certainly receiving no favors from public education when they're competing with the rest of the world (brain drain).

like a lot of people said, spending more time in school doesn't really help. that's pretty much substituting quality with quantity. we definitely need education reform, that's true. i don't think anybody can really argue with that, but we need to actually reform it, not just make the day/year longer.
Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon

Anyhow, secondary education is optional. You don't need to do anything more than read, write, and do rudimentary arithmetic to meet the skillset qualifications for most jobs in America. The rest is gravy. Expensive, expensive gravy.
sure, if you aspire towards mediocrity.
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Originally Posted By: The Mystic
Yet I've seen applications for a lot of those jobs, and many of them say something on the order of: "Any candidates who do not have at least a bachelor's degree or higher need not apply." I've also seen things like: "Any candidates who do not have at least X years of experience need not apply." And those are just for entry-level positions!


That's because a high school education isn't that good anymore compared to what it was forty years ago. If you compare a standard textbook from that period with a current one you will see except for history less material taught. I remember even in the early 70s the elementary mathematics textbooks no longer covered trigonometry.

Companies want to minimize training costs for new employees and shift that burden onto someone else. They want twenty year old workers with 15 years job experience. smile And this was true thirty years ago.
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Artemis approves of spending more time in school. Mainly because she doesnt find the time nor the energy to do work/ study at home. Or we could do what the Japaneese do. Which is cut back summer vacation and shove in more breaks in between. This is effective for a number of reasons, one mainly being the fact that after the first 2 weeks of summer vacation, it kind of essentially gets "old," and we start anticipating school again.

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Originally Posted By: Master Ackrovan
Originally Posted By: Sss-Chah
there's plenty of things to do during the summer, including actually doing something.


FYT
aw naw hell naw man yall done up and done it
Originally Posted By: Artie Luv
@ Ssschah

...Which is so horribly productive, am I right?
life is about more than just productivity. you need downtime every once in awhile. three months might be a lot, but it's there for more than just 'cause. back when we were an agrarian society, kids would take the summer off to help their parents farm. it just kind of stayed that way.
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Originally Posted By: Enraged Slith
The schooling enviroment is not suited for a lot of children, especially young boys, who learn a lot more through exploration, or so I've read.

This is true of people in general. There have been plenty of studies done to show that people retain knowledge best when they learn it through PLAY. This is pretty obvious when you think about it; if you can play with something and explore its connections to other things you are going to learn a lot more about it, especially about why it's interesting, than if you just hear about it.

This is no less applicable when you get to more specialized subject matter, though it is harder to apply. Most 8th graders won't accidentally stumble on how to do polynomial division if you let them play with polynomials for a while, but that's something worth learning.
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Originally Posted By: Sss-Chah
Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon

Anyhow, secondary education is optional. You don't need to do anything more than read, write, and do rudimentary arithmetic to meet the skillset qualifications for most jobs in America. The rest is gravy. Expensive, expensive gravy.
sure, if you aspire towards mediocrity.

Or toward a specialized profession. Some folks know what they want, and it isn't extra education. In fact, most of the education is wasted time and effort, forgotten after testing and graduation. Vocational school has been cast to the side in this country, to its detriment.
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Regarding productivity: School is a mess. I really prefer to have my 5 day weeks go on regularly. I like my 3 day weekends, but they really kill my productivity. Today, for example, I'm sitting here as I have been all weekend. I didn't start homework until today, and I still have a bit more to do. Also, my music practice dies on weekends. Every time the schedule changes, even by just one day, my rhythm gets messed up and I have trouble getting things done.

 

Summer vacation is getting shorter. We had a fairly long one this past year, almost a full 3 months. But I still remember starting school after Labor Day. Here, we start the week before with a full week, and then have a three-day weekend and a 4 day week. Ick, not a good way to start the year, in my opinion. And school goes later and later into June each year.

 

Like I mentioned earlier, there are those of us who actually use summer productively. I was so busy in the beginning 2 months of summer, I just started to get that "ahh, summer, nothing to do" feeling about a week or 2 before school started. All the projects I would like to do around the house? Well, maybe next summer, when I'm only taking one class during the summer. I would like us to consolidate the school year, with just a few, long breaks. I like how colleges have a week of fall break around Thanksgiving, a long winter break (although a full month is a bit much, if you ask me), and then another week-long spring break.

 

Yeah, I'm weird, but hey, I am in the top 1% of my class... maybe I'm doing something right? nah, can't be...

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Not to mention those who change jobs or majors. Or those who go on Jeopardy!

 

Also, the wide variety of classes taught exist for a reason. Both to provide a solid foundation (you learn more than history in a history class. more on that later) and to introduce you to a large number of fields in which you may work when you grow up.

 

I'm taking AP World History right now. Yeah, it's nice to get the AP credit and get out of some of my gen-ed requirements for college, but it goes beyond that. I'm learning how to critically analyze documents. I'm learning how to read from a dense textbook. I'm learning how to manage my time. And we all know time management is one of those life skills that people have so much trouble with.

 

Am I going to be a historian? Almost definitely not. Am I going to use at least some of the skills I learned in that class, yes.

 

I never really thought of myself as a biologist. Yeah, my parents are bio and bio-psych people, but that was for them, not me. And then I took AP Biology. And guess what, I'm considering many more fields of employment! Will I go into a biological field? Who knows at this point? But I had a good experience, learned many valuable life skills, and realized that there is a whole field of employment that interests me that I had never even considered before!

 

Yes, I wish I could take more specific classes. I like my band class. I want to take some comp sci. There are a whole mess of topics that I'd at least like an intro class in. But not at the cost of losing my gen-ed classes!

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Originally Posted By: Master1
Also, the wide variety of classes taught exist for a reason... to introduce you to a large number of fields in which you may work when you grow up.

Except that a strikingly narrow portion of the job market encompasses this wide variety of fields. Take a look at this nifty old school table from the US government. Out of 145 million workers, there are approximately 3000 mathematicians. This doesn't line up with the amount of math kids take in school. Okay, that's a grossly unfair comparison, since most math is useful in many occupations, and even higher math leads to other occupations, like the 41,000 statisticians and 4.3 million architects/engineers/scientists. But if we combine all the occupations that seriously require use of math or science at or beyond a 12th grade level, the total is about 8 million -- out of 145 million jobs. And that covers HALF of the standard "core classes" high school focuses on (math, science, english, history). Were math and science classes useful for the other 137 million people, most of whom went through high school? Sure, but other classes would have been useful too. Is logical thinking useful for everybody? Sure, but you don't have to take biology or trigonometry to work on that.

8 million people work in food prep, as many as the math and science fields combined, but there are few classes taught on that. 9 million work in construction/extraction. The list goes on...
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Let the potheads and the like drop out. They already have enough education to dig ditches. Then we'll have enough money to teach those who want to learn. And while we're at it, let the teachers/school decide the material. I personally find it annoying that we're paying teachers to read out of a book when they could be actually teaching the material.

 

My school has a science teacher who teaches the material rather than reads it. Everyone in the school loves him, and we easily covered twice the material we would otherwise.

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We actually do have 2 years of food/cooking now being offered. And a number of those core classes really are useful, even outside of your occupation. Math up through algebra is useful in everyday life, from doing simple home construction stuff to balancing your checkbook. And English is important. Everyone needs to know how to speak and write properly. To analyze Shakespeare? Not so much, but some of the basics? Most definitely.

 

I agree to an extent. We should have more variety and opportunity. Require one, maybe two years of high school English. Enough to be competent in writing letters, applications, essays, and so on. But 4 years of English spent mostly on analyzing poems and dead authors? That can become elective for all I care.

 

Also, lets not forget the good life skills. I'm not saying that requiring so much in the core areas is good, just that there are benefits to some gen-ed in the core areas.

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Originally Posted By: Preposterous Phlebotomist
On the one hand, some standard for comparison is important. Colleges care because they want to know who they're admitting. States should care because they need to know if the students are actually learning. But constant and total testing is not so good either. It's the utilitarian's dilemma: how much time do you spend analyzing and strategizing your success at the cost of actually spending time producing success?


My training as a teacher has emphasised "assessment for learning": teachers assessing students continuously throughout their education, in such a way that the information can be used to find out how students are progressing and support their learning. Unfortunately, students still have to take a bunch of standardised tests that are administered at state level. These tests are often quite poorly designed from a pedagogical perspective, and you have to prepare students for what they'll encounter when they take those tests. To prepare students to take badly-designed tests, you have to give them some badly-designed tests yourself. It's a pain.

Originally Posted By: Naughty Salmon
Why should the state care if students are meeting some minimum educational level? Oh wait, they don't. Students are free to leave school at any time, with parental permission.


Not here they aren't: students have to get some kind of education (including vocational programs or accredited homeschooling) until age 16. And those who do leave school at age 16 instead of 18 are much more likely to end up experiencing long-term unemployment. Now, maybe that's partly because of prejudice on the part of the people doing the hiring or other confounding factors, but it seems a bit irresponsible to paint leaving school early as an equal and harmless option.

Originally Posted By: Randomizer
That's because a high school education isn't that good anymore compared to what it was forty years ago. If you compare a standard textbook from that period with a current one you will see except for history less material taught. I remember even in the early 70s the elementary mathematics textbooks no longer covered trigonometry.


This is a half-truth at best: it varies heavily both within and between subject areas. There are some things schools don't tend to teach in high school that they used to, but there are also a lot of things we're teaching now that we didn't teach in the 1970s. I'm a biology teacher, and I can tell you that the stuff I'm teaching in year 11 now is stuff that I didn't learn until my second year of university less than a decade ago. If you go back 40 years, there's no comparison: biology was barely taught at all compared to what we teach today.

You also have to keep in mind that the assumption now is that nearly everyone will finish high school, so there's a different student population being catered to.

Originally Posted By: Last Unction Hero
8 million people work in food prep, as many as the math and science fields combined, but there are few classes taught on that. 9 million work in construction/extraction. The list goes on...


Well, if you work in construction you'd better know at least a little physics and materials science. In fact, everyone who drives a car should probably know some physics: it's all very well to teach someone a set of rules about road safety, but you'll remember them a lot better and have more respect for them if you understand why you should avoid braking while turning, for example -- and that requires physics. And if you work in food preparation it'd sure help to know some biology and chemistry. (Actually, I think everyone would benefit from knowing some biology, but I'm biased.)

I'm not saying there's no room for improvement in what we teach or how, but I still use a lot of what I learned in school in my daily life (even outside of work), so my experience is that it's been far from useless.
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Sadly, those children's parents would complain. First, because their students are being discriminated against. Second, because their students would be going to the largest school on the planet. I don't know about New Zealand, but America has enough druggies and such to start another country.

 

Similar ideas have been used in the establishment of "tracked" courses. You know, standard, honors, gifted, AP... While those definitely have advantages, most teachers, when they come across a class labeled "standard" don't put in the same effort they do with the talented classes. By tracking people, we help the smart and hurt the less smart.

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