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When Public Schools Are All Fixed, Then Let’s Talk about Homeschooling

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Until then, I really don’t see where public schooling proponents have the nerve to talk about much of anything with a straight face. To wit:

New York state tested about 1.2 million kids in grades 3-8 in English and math, according to the New York Post’s NY Passes Students Who Get Wrong Answers on Tests” by Carl Campanile and Susan Edelman.

Despite promises that the exams — which determine whether students advance to the next grade — would not be dumbed down this year, students got “partial credit” for wrong answers after failing to correctly add, subtract, multiply and divide. Some got credit for no answer at all.

“They were giving credit for blatantly wrong things,” said an outraged Brooklyn teacher who was among those hired to score the fourth-grade test…

…Scoring guides obtained by The Post reveal that kids get half-credit or more for showing fragments of work related to the problem — even if they screw up the calculations or leave the answer blank.

Examples in the fourth-grade scoring guide include:

* A kid who answers that a 2-foot-long skateboard is 48 inches long gets half-credit for adding 24 and 24 instead of the correct 12 plus 12.

* A miscalculation that 28 divided by 14 equals 4 instead of 2 is “partially correct” if the student uses the right method to verify the wrong answer.

* Setting up a division problem to find one-fifth of $400, but not solving the problem — and leaving the answer blank — gets half-credit.

They provide more examples, but you get the idea. The worst part? This isn’t even really news!

A year ago, Chancellor Joel Klein boasted that the city was making “dramatic progress” when 82 percent of city students passed the state math test and 69 percent passed in English, up sharply from 2002. And fewer kids have been left back in recent years.

What officials didn’t reveal was that the number of points needed to pass proficiency levels has, in most cases, steadily dropped.

The state Board of Regents, which oversees the tests, has postponed the release of results until late July, but let the city Department of Education set its own “promotional cut scores” to decide which kids may be held back. The DOE will release those scores in the next two weeks, a spokesman said.
Classroom

You can choose to skip this insanity. Homeschool.

In the meantime, Sam Dillon reports in the New York Times on “States Create a Flood of Bills” as they prostitute themselves for a chunk of Race to the Top money to prop up falling budgets – not unlike the very same budget disaster you may be experiencing at home. Last year’s stimulus money ran out (read public schooling bailout), and a bill pending in Washington right now could throw another $23 billion into the pot. This, on top of the ever-escalating local taxes each of us throws into the kitty.

Also in the meantime, Newsweek clues us in on what anyone who has been out and about in the last decade or so already knows: “Why Teenagers Are Growing Up So Slowly Today.”
As Allen writes, “We place kids in schools together with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other kids typically from similar economic and cultural backgrounds. We group them all within a year or so of one another in age. We equip them with similar gadgets, expose them to the same TV shows, lessons, and sports. We ask them all to take almost the exact same courses and do the exact same work and be graded relative to one another. We give them only a handful of ways in which they can meaningfully demonstrate their competencies. And then we’re surprised they have some difficulty establishing a sense of their own individuality.”
But Allen speculates that our parenting style may indeed be causing their brains to be this way. Brains of teens a hundred years ago might have been far more mature. Without painful real-life experiences, modern teens’ brains never learn to tell the difference between what they should fear and what they shouldn’t. Without real consequences and real rewards, teens never learn to distinguish between good risks they should take and bad risks they shouldn’t. “We park kids on the sidelines, thinking their brains will develop if we just wait, let time pass, as if all they need is more prep courses, lessons, and enrichment courses. They need real stress and challenges.”
Hello? This is what homeschoolers, who provide the freedom for children to be in the “real world” every day, have been saying for decades! And they’re looking for another multi-billion dollar bailout – for this??
Don’t forget Psychology Today’s little ditty called “Shocker: Empathy Dropped 40% in College Students Since 2000” by Maia Szalavitz, which starts out: “If people don’t even care about seeming uncaring, something’s wrong.” You think?

The survey on empathy used in this study–which you can take for yourself here–however, is another matter. While it so obviously measures empathy that you could easily game it to make yourself look kinder and nicer, the fact that today’s college students don’t even feel compelled to do that suggests that the study is measuring something real. If young people don’t even care about seeming uncaring, something is seriously wrong. Another survey in the research found that people also think that others around them are less compassionate.

Why might today’s students be less empathetic than their elders? One of the culprits we identify in Born for Love is the way that they spent most of their time early in life. Today’s kids play outdoors much less–and they spend far less time in unstructured activity with others than prior generations.

Without unstructured free time with playmates, children simply don’t get to know each other very well. And you can’t learn to connect and care if you don’t practice these things Free play declined by at least a third between 1981 and 2003–right when the kids who hit college in 2000 and later were growing up.

And let’s not forget the New York Time’s “Placing the Blame as Students Are Buried in Debt.”
The Project on Student Debt, a research and advocacy organization in Oakland, Calif., used federal data to estimate that 206,000 people graduated from college (including many from for-profit universities) with more than $40,000 in student loan debt in that same period. That’s a ninefold increase over the number of people in 1996, using 2008 dollars.
Ever try to get ahead paying back a loan with an entry level job income? If you get a job (and in this economy that part even isn’t guaranteed), you’re lucky to be able to make minimum payments. The interest is a killer.
“I don’t want to spend the rest of my life slaving away to pay for an education I got for four years and would happily give back,” she said. “It feels wrong to me.”
Taken separately, each of these articles may not seem so bad. But please, allow me to put them together and summarize this little-more-than-a-week’s-worth-of-public-schooling news, and what schooling accomplishes, day in and day out:
Dumbing down. Check.
Exorbitant, unsustainable cost. Check.
Slowing down maturity. Check.
Killing the spirit with narcissistic traits and lack of empathy. Check.
Creating oppression of life-long debt. Check.
Why are we doing this to ourselves?
Why are we doing this to our society?
Why are we doing this to children?
This has reached the point of total insanity. You can choose to skip this insanity. Homeschool.

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3 Responses to “When Public Schools Are All Fixed, Then Let’s Talk about Homeschooling”

  1. Heather D says:

    While I agree with most of the points in this post (and in the articles quoted), I actually think it's a good thing that kids got partial credit on the math tests in New York.

    I saw that article a few days ago and immediately thought "well it's about time". Now, there are many other things about that testing system that are just plain wrong… Don't think I'm condoning it!

    But if a child sets up a math problem correctly, but has a calculation error, shouldn't they get credit for understanding the problem? Much of the time, the largest hurdle in math is figuring out how to set up the problem… figuring out exactly how to reach the solution.

    Making mistakes in the final calculation is, in my mind, a very separate matter. In one of the standardized tests we have done (independently), "calculation" is in fact scored separately. In other words, there are questions that are just "367+412", no logic or setting up needed, just the calculation. Then there are word problems, which challenge the student's understanding of logic and how mathematics relates to 'real world' situations.

    Of course the argument can be made that both skills are absolutely essential. Whether the mistake came from a miscalculation or from setting up the problem incorrectly, a mathematical mistake in the real world can have devastating consequences. The source of the mistake almost doesn't matter.

    But for students who are LEARNING math (not applying it to their jobs, not yet anyway), the source of the mistake is VERY relevant. That's why we've always been constantly asked to "show your work".

    A student who understands how to relate the word problem to a mathematical sentence, but still needs practice on their multiplication tables, should not just get a score of 0. They have shown that they understand the concept.

    Similarly, a student who knows their tables inside and out, but still has trouble with the logic of word problems, also should get some recognition for the skills they DO have.

    Does that mean it should be as much as half credit? Maybe not. Like I said, I don't think their system is "wonderful".

    But it bothers me that the general response to this 'news' is that it's a horrible, terrible, grievous thing to ever give a child credit for an attempt at a problem, that while unsuccessful, still shows some understanding of the issues.

    In any other subject, in any other rubric, there are sliding scales, partial marks for getting good content but poor spelling, good paragraph structure but poor persuasiveness, good style but poor punctuation. It doesn't have to be PERFECT to be GOOD. There's this idea out there that math is somehow different, that it's completely black and white, and that a wrong answer is a wrong answer no matter how close they got.

    To me, that is in fact one of the benefits of homeschooling with math. One on one with my son, I can see how he came to his wrong answer, and realize that it was just a calculation error, so we don't have to go over the entire chapter again to relearn the concept… we can go on to the next concept and just practice multiplying a bit more. Or vice versa. Or whatever. He doesn't just automatically fail if it's not PERFECT every single time.

    So rather than this NY test being yet another indicator of what's wrong with the system, I actually see this as being one step CLOSER to the ideals inherent in homeschooling — giving credit (or partial credit!) where credit is due.

    Obviously, their system needs to be tweaked. And their motives may be suspect. And their standards and the way they talk about the results are ridiculous. But just the basic idea of giving partial credit for partially right but in the end 'incorrect' math answers… I don't have any problem with that.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Buterbaugh and Kimberly Wright, Parent at the Helm. Parent at the Helm said: New blog posting, When Public Schools Are All Fixed, Then Let's Talk about Homeschooling – http://parentatthehelm.com/H3 […]

  3. […] read this disturbing roundup of public schooling news, related by a homeschooling […]

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