President Obama Is Looking To Extend The School Year

Monday, September 28, 2009 6:52 AM

RideMan said:
Seems to be about par for the course for this administration: pick a perceived problem, then propose a "solution" which completely ignores in every possible way the root cause of the problem and which, if implemented, will just as likely make the perceived problem even worse.

This administration? Like this sort of thing is new?


Brandon | Facebook

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Monday, September 28, 2009 7:10 AM

There needs to be individual variety tailored to what works best for both the kids and the teachers.

Unfortunitly, the administrators don't see it that way. They just want to get the test scores up so they can keep their funding.

On the other side, I was very lucky enough to have some cool and educational teachers in my high school. One of the most memorable was Mr. Viakunis, my senior physics teacher. There a parts of physics that can be pretty dry, but his examples of how they worked in the real world, were really quite "edutaining."


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

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Monday, September 28, 2009 7:11 AM

This thread is all over the place. Let's start at the beginning. The USA has a fine tradition of PUBLIC education. That means that everyone gets to go to the school. When implemented early in our history it was a massive change from our European roots. However, special challenges arise when everyone is included.

Not all the children want to be there, or are even capable of quality work. Even worse, many parents look at school as a babysitter at best and have no interest in the progress of their children.

This is compounded by the pathetic funding of many schools in America. When public schools first were founded, the job of teacher was well respected and fairly well compensated. Over the years the job has become so poorly compensated that most college grads wouldn't even consider teaching. Those that do often leave after a few years for something more lucrative. This has led to many many very good teachers going to the private sector. The result is too many poor teachers that are the ones that just couldn't find anythoing else. Is that who you want teaching your kids? Well we brought it on our selves with the poor funding.

The government and school admins then felt that not enough good teaching was happening (what a shock) so they implemented standardized tests to "force" better instruction. All that did was hamstring the good teachers from using creativity in the classroom.

So now that we know a little about how we got where we are, does anyone really believe that just doing what we are doing now a few more days a year will have any impact at all? Not Likely.

The true first solution, is paying teachers a competitive salery so top college grads can consider and stay with teaching. Sharper more dedicated teachers can have an impact and won't need more days to do it. It will take years and years to fix what has become such a mess. Without the brightest college students even considering teaching all the standardized tests, federal aid, head start programs, etc will have little effect.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:23 AM

I've yet to see any evidence anywhere that reasonably concludes that a longer school year makes smarter kids.

We had this conversation the last time this came up, in the context of Ohio. The pedagogical literature is clear---more time on task leads to better achievement, provided the time on task is done well.

You might argue that schools are so broken that they can't do this well and so the extra time is wasted, but that's a district-by-district (and even classroom-by-classroom) issue. For schools that currently work, spending more time leads to better outcomes. It's really that simple.


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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:47 AM

For schools that work, yes. But nobody is trying to fix the schools that work--this is aimed at the broken schools.

Also, we spend more money on education than any other country. Money isn't the issue--though I wouldn't disagree that the existing money could be better spent.

You could double the pay at the nastiest schools in this country and you still wouldn't entice the top college grads.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:57 AM

To me, the best indicator for how well a kid will do is whether his/her parents care. If they don't, there isn't much a school system is going to do.

We should focus more on vocational training in this country. Education for education's sake has a lot of merit to it but its not for everyone. And that is particularly true for college. Our current approach of "everyone should go to college" won't work.

If you want to look at whether teachers are underpaid, you need to look at the number of days they work per year, how many hours they work per day and the benefits that they get.

As to the question of the thread, most districts wouldn't be able to afford an extended school year, extended school years would further the divide between the haves/have nots and any decisions about extending the school year should be left to the particular school districts.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 10:17 AM

GoBucks89 said:

We should focus more on vocational training in this country. Education for education's sake has a lot of merit to it but its not for everyone. And that is particularly true for college. Our current approach of "everyone should go to college" won't work.

Bingo! You hit the nail on the head. We need to bring back "old school" education, in this case, apprenticeships. You have a student working alongside a master (say a welder or carpenter). In that case, theducation works both ways: the sudent learns from a master, and the master gets a young prospective on things.


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

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Monday, September 28, 2009 11:20 AM
Jeff's avatar

Brian Noble said:
We had this conversation the last time this came up, in the context of Ohio. The pedagogical literature is clear---more time on task leads to better achievement, provided the time on task is done well.

You might argue that schools are so broken that they can't do this well and so the extra time is wasted, but that's a district-by-district (and even classroom-by-classroom) issue. For schools that currently work, spending more time leads to better outcomes. It's really that simple.

You're right, and I'll repeat what I thought then (I don't remember if I actually posted it, mind you). The priorities are so screwed up today that I'm not convinced the time kids have is being used adequately. I mean, I had early release my senior year, leaving after three hours. What's that about? And this was before the feds got crazy on the hopelessly broken test score-funding nonsense.

Like every other difficult problem, Americans want some simple silver bullet to solve the problem. Health care is the same way, and we know if we look at it even for a few minutes that there is no one magical thing that fixes everything. This is another one, and longer school years are #382 of things to fix.

I strongly believe the funding issues need to be worked out above all else, because they're the root of so many problems, including the dictation of curriculum by this asinine testing/accountability thing.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Phrazy

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Monday, September 28, 2009 11:50 AM

It is interesting to see the vilification of the standardized testing, although it is worth noting that one of the most important things that decides which college you can get into is a standardized test score...

Anyway, here's my question:
The school district is charged with bringing its students, through any means necessary, to a particular level of achievement. That is, there is a certain level of proficiency that all students should achieve before they graduate. In fact, it is more complicated than that because there are certain levels of proficiency that all students should achieve before reaching certain grade levels.

There is a good reason for this: if all students reach a certain, known minimum level of proficiency before certain grade levels (I think it's 4th, 9th, and 12th grades) then you establish baselines that can be used for building further learning. The idea is to make all the schools compatible with each other...that is, if you have successfully reached 4th grade proficiency at school A, you should be able to successfully attend 5th grade at school A or school B. More important, the idea is that a high-school graduate should have a certain level of academic proficiency...that is, the diploma has some inherent meaning.

So I have to pose the question: Given that there is a standard which students are expected to achieve, how do you measure that except through the use of a standardized instrument? We can argue all day about what should be done with the data that comes from the standardized tests, and we can probably agree that the tests have inherent problems as a measure of student achievement. But as flawed as they are, what do you propose as an alternative?

I do think our one-size-fits-all, one-method-fits-all style of education, in which we seem to view students as vessels into which we pour knowledge in the classroom, is fatally flawed. We are unable to teach students because we are unable to engage them. The role of the educator should be to get students engaged in learning; knowledge and skills are things the students *must* acquire and develop themselves. The role of the teacher is to facilitate that process, and the best teachers are the ones who have figured that out. This was something I learned a very long time ago, and I really have to thank the principal at my first elementary school for...when I had no idea what was going on...literally throwing me out of his school in 1976. I ended up in a school that was largely geared toward independent learning, and for me that worked pretty well.

Anyway, fixing education is a pretty massive task, and as important as funding is, that really isn't the best starting point either, because no matter how much money you throw at the problem, the cost of an adequate public education is always going to be "more". I think meaningful change is going to have to start at the classroom level and move on from there. Retain the baseline requirements, but take a "by any means necessary" approach to getting students to meet those requirements. The requirement for the teacher should be, "This is where your students need to be at the end of the semester." That's where meaningful reform needs to start.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


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Monday, September 28, 2009 11:51 AM
BDesvignes's avatar

The best solution to the problems with our school system is to allow for competition and to break up the teachers union. Competition would force bad schools to improve. This could be done through school vouchers and allowing students to go to any school they want. The teachers union allows bad teachers to keep teaching because they won't get fired. Another big fix is to abolish the Department of Education and give all the control back to the states and local governments where it belongs. Big government is never the solution. It's too bad that Obama thinks it is.


Da Bears

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Monday, September 28, 2009 12:31 PM
ridemcoaster's avatar

RideMan said:
It is interesting to see the vilification of the standardized testing, although it is worth noting that one of the most important things that decides which college you can get into is a standardized test score...

Thats a pretty hard comparison you just made Dave.

I will use Virginia as my example since I have obtained my High School and College Degree from the same state and have full command of what it did and didnt affect.

The standardize testing I think most are referring to are the state imposed ones which dictate whether (in Virginia) if the school obtains proper funding, and in some cases if a student passes a grade.

The Standardize testing that Colleges utilize are the SAT and ACT. If I nailed a 1600 (back in my day that was top score, not 2400 of today) on my SATs it was only measured against me. Not my High School. If I got a 400 (200 for each part for just putting your name down), the school still wasn't affected financially.. The effect, albeit negative in this case, was squarely on me/student. Same with ACTs.

So I dont think you could easily compare the two nor say we shouldnt point fingers (fongers?) at one but not the other..

One measures one student, while the other measures a school and in effect the entire student body.

Last edited by ridemcoaster, Monday, September 28, 2009 12:34 PM
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Monday, September 28, 2009 1:25 PM

RideMan said:
How is more time in an ineffective school going to make it more effective? Let me bring this into "our" world. This is like trying to fix the helix on Son of Beast by removing the vertical loop. And we all know how well THAT worked out!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

I do you one better Rideman: To solve the problem of rider discomfort on Son of Beast, I suggest mandatory triple rides. Riders will certainly be numb to the pain after three trips through the Rose Bowl.

If that doesn't work, modify all the other coasters to perform just like Son of Beast. Then Son of Beast will at least be average.

Write your congressmen.
We need "No Coaster Left Behind".


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Monday, September 28, 2009 1:45 PM

ridemcoaster -- I think your point goes more to interpretation of the tests than it does to whether the tests produce meaningful results. We use standardized tests for a lot of things. If you are looking at evaluating a large number of folks, standardized tests can be a very effective tool. You are not going to have millions of kids taking essay exams or sitting down for personal interviews to determine if they learned anything. And I think it makes sense that we have some type of way to evaluate schools. And to me, standardized tests are a good way (though not perfect) of doing that. And you should always look to refine/better any testing method that you select.

The criticism that I hear most often about the standardized tests is that the teachers teach to the test. If the tests cover the basics of what kids should know and the teachers teach kids to do well on those tests, I do not necessarily see that as a bad thing. They certainly could do worse.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 2:16 PM

GoBucks89 said:

The criticism that I hear most often about the standardized tests is that the teachers teach to the test. If the tests cover the basics of what kids should know and the teachers teach kids to do well on those tests, I do not necessarily see that as a bad thing. They certainly could do worse.

I agree with your comments, and with your screen name.
The problem is that the tests do not cover the basics. Instead they cover literally thousands of smaller facts and details. For example, instead of being tested on a basic history of America, kids need to know every state's capitol, population, square acreage, state bird, etc.

I'm exaggerating, but my point is that with so many things to cover, teachers have no choice BUT to teach to the test. A good number of kids cannot possibly retain all this information, and is there any real benefit to the ones that do? Will they grow up to be better workers, leaders, innovators?

Like many issues, I think the solution requires many small fixes. More realistic standardized tests, better parenting, better teacher evaluation, responsible spending, better distribution of funds, curriculum geared towards the real world. Vouchers (competition). Less TV. Less coaster riding. ;^)

Simply adding more hours to the school day, or yet another tax increase, doesn't address these issues.


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Monday, September 28, 2009 2:35 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar

GoBucks89 said:
You are not going to have millions of kids taking essay exams or sitting down for personal interviews to determine if they learned anything.

But you should if you really want to assess learning and even more importantly a student's ability to think. The standardized testing protocols are terribly limited in their ability to assess these things. I mean, heck, a really good guesser has a one in four or five chance at getting a question right just by choosing one.

I think application style testing would go much further in getting us where we want to be in terms of education.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Monday, September 28, 2009 2:37 PM
ApolloAndy's avatar

The other problem with standardized tests (especially multiple choice tests) is they end up focusing much more on "right" and "wrong" than on how you got there. A huge amount of "studying" for any written test is memorizing a whole bunch of stuff, regurgitating it, and then forgetting it a few hours later.


Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

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Monday, September 28, 2009 2:47 PM

Brad, I get what you're driving at. The ONLY thing I disagree with you about is less coaster riding. In fact, coaster riding is PERFECT chance to teach kids about physics, G-forces, and about potential an kentic energy.

As for having to memorize the minutia of the state bird and the area of each state, a more valid question such as "Besides Louisiana, what are five other states who's areas were part of the Louisiana purchase?"

Heck, maybe schools should start teaching kids basic survival skills, such as how to start a fire and basic first aid.


Coaster Junkie from NH
I drive in & out of Boston, so I ride coasters to relax!

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Monday, September 28, 2009 3:01 PM

A few things:

That the standardized tests that we are using may be screwed up doesn't mean you shouldn't use standardized tests. Most professions used standardized tests (as the sole or a primary requirement for entry). There is nothing wrong with standardized tests.

How are you doing to pay for every high school senior in this country to take an essay test or sit down for interviews? And what until you see the appeal process for those tests when mommy and daddy find out that junior isn't receiving his degree because of the subjective grading on an essay test/interview.

Do what the SAT does and penalize folks for wrong answers to remove blind guessing as an option.

A lot of learning is memorization. And there is no difference if you forgot what you memorized or what you learned at some point down the line.

Proficiency tests are going to be pretty basic. They will test the minimum things that you need to learn to get a high school diploma. "How you got there" type stuff won't be relevant to much of that. It will be much more relevant to much more complex/sophisticated things that you are not going to be able to have as a minimum standard.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 3:13 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar

Learning is not memorization. Learning is retaining knowledge. And you retain knowledge longer via application than you do via memorization.

Even colleges and universities recognize the limits of standardized testing in measuring a person's ability to learn at their institution. That's why they have formulas for admission evaluation that include other things as well, like GPA and extra-curricular activities and for some essays and interviews.

Edited to add: I agree that volume is an issue when considering other testing methods, though. It's just that the consensus seems to be that we need to focus on the problems and if that issue of volume is a problem, then why not start by thinking of ways to deal with it instead of working around it?

Last edited by Carrie M., Monday, September 28, 2009 3:16 PM

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Monday, September 28, 2009 3:20 PM

The basics of math, language, science, etc. involve memorization. Yes there is much more to them when you get beyond the basics. But when you are looking at proficiency tests, you are looking at the basics. And colleges are looking beyond the basics.

I think that at this point, the costs of doing some type of subjective test are too prohibitive. Both in terms of paying for them and how you use them to determine whether a kid gets a diploma. I also think that standardized tests are good at testing for the basics which is what we are talking about in terms of proficiency tests. And I certainly think that we should aspire to much more. But until everyone knows the basics, its difficult to try to require more.

And I certainly think that we should continue to refine and better any testing methods that we use.

Last edited by GoBucks89, Monday, September 28, 2009 3:30 PM
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