Jan212012

Quality of Education in Public Schools

Lately, standardized testing, education reform, and the quality of education in United States public schools are constant topics in the news. Conflicting messages make it difficult to get to the heart of the issue. Are we falling behind China when it comes to educating our children? Are we placing too much emphasis on standardized test scores? Are charter schools the answer?

America’s Founding Fathers set the bar pretty high when they envisioned a country where every citizen was entitled to a quality public education. What began as an idea grew into an ideal. Universal education for all citizens is a concept as American as apple pie and baseball. Yet, as our nation grows, our public education system has not been growing with us. Most Americans recognize that we need to make changes to our public school system to ensure all of our children receive quality education. In fact, a recent study by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup found:

  • The public has high regard for the public schools, wants needed improvement to come through those schools, and has little interest in seeking alternatives.
  • The public has high regard for the public schools, wants needed improvement to come through those schools, and has little interest in seeking alternatives.

So what exactly is the state of America’s public school system and what is the level of quality of education our students receive? It turns out that arguments over hot button issues like school choice, bilingual education, and testing miss the point entirely.

Currently, American public schools are facing some serious issues. Over the past thirty years, public school teachers have been forced to ‘do more with less’ due to budget cuts and lack of funding. At some schools students must pay cash out-of-pocket to participate in intramural sports. The lack of quality teachers presents an overwhelming challenge to both states and local school districts. Teacher shortages are most severe at the secondary level, where advanced content area expertise and academic majors in fields like math and science are vitally important for student achievement. According to the New York Times:

  • The annual cost of prison for an inmate is more than double what is spent on an individual public school student.
  • Eight years after Congress passed the No Child Left Behind act, with the goal of 100 percent proficiency in math and reading, most states hovered between 20 and 30 percent proficiency, and 70 percent of eighth graders could not read at grade level.
  • By 2020, only an estimated 50 million Americans will be qualified to fill 123 million highly skilled, highly paid jobs.
  • Among 30 developed countries, the United States ranks 25th in math and 21st in science.

The level of quality of education American students receive compared to other nations may shock casual observers. According to the Broad Foundation on Education:

  • America’s top math students rank 25th out of 30 countries when compared with
    top students elsewhere in the world.
  • By the end of 8th grade, U.S. students are two years behind in the math being studied by peers in other countries.
  • Sixty eight percent of 8th graders can’t read at their grade level, and most will
    never catch up.
  • More than 1.2 million students drop out of school every year. That’s more than
    6,000 students every school day and one every 26 seconds.
  • The national high school graduation rate is only 70 percent and rates are much lower for minority students. Only about half of the nation’s African-American and Latino students graduate on time from high school.

A University of Michigan study comparing the Chinese and U.S. public education systems revealed some interesting differences between our approaches to education that may contain the ‘secret’ to improving our ambitious public school system. The study concluded that “If schools in the U.S. public school system were to incorporate the positive aspects that make the Chinese school system so successful, schools in the U.S. would in turn be more successful.” Some of the differences between the U.S. and Chinese public school systems as noted by the University of Michigan study are as follows:

  • Teachers in China are given more respect than teachers in the U.S. For example, teachers do not get taxed on their salary, and they receive their own national holiday, Teachers Day, on September 29th.
  • Chinese schools have a hard work ethic, resulting in student success.
  • Chinese schools do not segregate high achieving students from lower achieving students through tracking levels, like in the U.S. This is mostly due to the belief that all students can succeed if they put in the effort.
  • While American students have the same amount of allocated time as Chinese students, the amount of engaged time spent in school is dramatically less than their Chinese counterparts.
  • State curriculums and state testing does not make sense when standardized tests and textbooks are nationally normed and marked, respectively.

The American public school system has traditionally been one of our nation’s biggest strengths and taking the appropriate steps to ensure that our children are properly educated is critical to our country’s success.

 

 

 

Jan122012

Public School Ratings

Public school ratings are released each year to try to establish a wide database of information for parents to look into. When it comes to choosing a school for your child, the ultimate goal is for the best education one can both afford and the school can provide. There are endless categories that are used to judge each school, but the main ones that usually stand out are test scores, class sizes, enrollment by grade, ethnic/racial groups, economic groups, population distribution by age, household income, and educational expenditures.

Test scores is usually the biggest category that people look at when it comes to choosing a school for your child. The test scores represent the average results that the students in that school end up with on standardized tests or similar since it depends on how the state decides to do their testing procedures. A school with higher tests scores can be assumed to have a better educational, or preparation system in place. Although this may be generally true that those higher scores represent a better education, this is not always the case and it should only be used in addition to other categories. Picking the highest scoring school over any others is a sure way to make a naïve decision.

Class sizes always come up high on the list of what you are looking at with a school. It has been documented that smaller class sizes usually ends up with a much better education. The premise behind this is that the teachers have less work involved with each class so they can spend more time with the students and less time grading papers. There is more one-on-one time and more time in total divided by each student, whether that is more questions answered, or more topics covered. The more time that a teacher can spend with each individual student, the better the learning experience becomes for the students. Keep in mind though that smaller class sizes is detrimental to the schools budget since they have to sacrifice revenue from less attending students to accommodate. It is important for the schools to strike a balance between the cost of the smaller class sizes and the benefits of the intimate setting on the quality of education delivered.

Ethnic or Racial groups data is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it may be imperative that the student be placed in a school that is most fitting for him. Regardless of law and racial equality, research has proven that most people feel comfortable when they have friends of similar interests and who are most like themselves. If a non-Hispanic child is placed in a predominately-Hispanic school, it may be difficult for him to be happy which in turn would lead to lower test scores. This is not always the case, but one should consider this and ensure the school is a best fit. Most schools do not fall into this category though.

Economic groups are a way that many people gauge the education that the school will provide. Data shows that as an increase in the percentage of economically disadvantaged students, SAT test scores decrease. It is an inverse relationship and it is a big problem for schools in poorer areas. The most important part of this category is comparing the school to the district or state. If the school were very low compared to the district, it would definitely show that this particular school should have a better education and may be a wise choice.

Lastly, one of the biggest indicators for educational performance would be the educational expenditures. This category shows how much the school spends on each student. It can be said that the greater dollar amount spent per student should indicate a greater education. This is not always the case, but many schools will use these numbers as a great way to publically advertise the school. The most important thing to consider here is comparison to the district and state and then uses the rating to compare with the rest of the categories.

Dec302011

Public School After School Programs

In the past when most people attended elementary or middle school, they just arrived in the morning, attended classes and then went home in the afternoon, and that was that. However, the day that we made the switch over the high school, things changed drastically for most of us. Many people became involved in the schools after school programs. Some people so much that they would be at school almost all day- a huge difference to what we were so accustomed to from middle school. However, this was probably for the better, because all of the extra-curricular activities that people used in school made them great candidates for applying to college, and a lot of the time these programs were mandatory if they were in a sport. Here in this article, we will briefly cover some of the most common public school after school programs that were offered at various High schools.

One of the most popular public schools after school programs is the key club. The Key Club can be found in pretty much all of the big high schools nationwide, and its participants partake in a wide variety of things. Even though these Key Club members do many different things with other members, the main theme around the club is being able to actively improve and better the community around them as a whole. This could really amount to any number of things- like volunteering at non-profit organizations, or something as simple as cleaning up a nearby park or street. Whatever you are going to be doing in the Key Club, it is definitely going to be worth your time.

Many of the public schools after school programs actually involve a sport of some sort. Obviously, the coaches of the teams are going to want to get every opportunity possible to make their team as competitive as possible, which is going to lead to a lot of training and practice. While some sports practice takes place before school, traditionally it is held in the afternoon after the kids have finished all of their classes. When you think about all the different sports some High Schools have, it really becomes no wonder that this is the most popular of the public school after school programs. Whether it is for football training, or tennis practice, the likelihood of someone staying after school for a sports-related thing is very high.

Of course, not all of the extra-curricular activities that some schools offer are going to be sports related. Another one of the most common reasons for a student to stay after at school is related to sports. A lot of the time, schools are going to require students enrolled in some sort of arts programs to spend extra time at school so that they can make sure they are getting the proper amount of practice. This applies to many arts related courses, like theatre, choir, band and orchestra. All of these courses are going to require the student to spend that extra bit of time at school to get a leg up in whatever it is they are pursuing.

By now, you should have a good idea on all of the different types of after school programs that various high schools will offer. It is important to remember that many of the students did not just limit themselves to just one; some would do a combination like tennis practice and key club. While this certainly can cause a hectic schedule, it does look great on a college application.

Dec162011

Home Schooling vs. Public School

Even though using home schooling as a method of educating your child is not nearly as popular as it once was, it is still as somewhat common option for your child’s education that is all too often left unexplored. However, you are probably going to be curious as to how it stacks up against your other choices for education; that being sending him or her to a public school for their education. If you are in this predicament, you are in the right place because we are going to be covering the pros and cons of each of these schooling methods for your kid.

First, we are going to kick off with the disadvantages that are associated with home schooling your child. To be honest, there are actually quite a lot of these cons, but there are some good points too (more on those later). The most important thing that your child is going to be missing is the social skills and sense of community that a child who gets their education from a public school gets to enjoy. By home schooling your child, you are essentially sheltering them from the world around them, which can have some far-reaching repercussions down the road. In addition, finding a reliable teacher for all of your home schooling needs can also be a real pain, and then the cost associated with home schooling is (surprisingly) more expensive than public school.

However, do not let all of these disadvantages of home schooling put you off to the idea of it. There are some pros for using home schooling to educate your child, as you can make sure that your child is getting all the attention he or she needs (classes are often a 1:1 student to teacher ratio). You can also monitor your kid to make sure that they are not slacking off in class, and you will have a better idea of what the curriculum consists of.

There are many advantages to take into consideration when sending your kid to a public school rather than home schooling. As we’ve stated earlier, your child will learn to effectively communicate with others in a public school; that is something that everybody learns to do over time, but most people do it in a public school. The cost of sending your kid to a public school is going to be a lot less than having them home schooled so if you are looking for the most economical option, look no further than public schooling. Finally, if your kid is homeschooled, there really is no chance of him or her getting onto a school sports team, so if he or she were a huge sports fan, using a public school as their method of education would definitely be preferable here.

Of course, using a public school system is not without its flaws too. Your child is going to undeniably get less face-to-face time with their teachers, and will typically have a 30:1 student to teacher ratio in their classes; very different from what we are seeing in homeschooling. In addition, you will be unable to monitor what your kid does in school since they will be at a public school, and your knowledge of their curriculum will be limited to what they tell you about it.

Make no mistake, using homeschooling, as the preferred method to educating your child certainly is not going to be for everyone. However, after reading this article, you hopefully have a slightly better idea of which choice is going to suit your kid the best given his or her situation.

Dec042011

Public School Careers

If you are looking for a career in the educational field, the obvious first place to look is at a Public school. In addition, when you think about this, there really is not a surprise to it. If you are just getting into the educational field, you are naturally going to want to go to the place where you are most likely to get a job. If this is the case for you, then you are going to want to skip a career in private schooling, and go on straight to public. In addition, in this article, we are going to teach you everything that you are going to want to know when it comes to finding a job when searching for public school careers.

There are many things that you are going to want to take into consideration before pursuing one of the many public school careers. These sort of things often seem overwhelming to some people who are just starting out in a new career for teaching at a public school (or even a private one for that matter), but with the right “know-how” it can actually be a very simple thing to master. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind when embarking on a new teaching career.

If you can remember when you were in middle school or even younger, you probably remember that teachers always had to put up with troublesome and boisterous kids. Well, things certainly have not changed one bit since then, and if you are to really enjoy your new teaching career at a public school, then having the ability to deal with kids all day without losing your cool is necessary. This should be a huge factor, and if you are to make the most out of your job, this is something that you cannot skip out on. Also having many of what some people call “people skills”, which is being able to effectively communicate with people all day is something that certainly will not hurt either!

One of the biggest differences when it comes to pursuing a career in public schools rather than private schools is that public schools require the teacher to be a certified educational instructor, whereas private schools do not require this. This is often a surprise to people, as they would imagine that to actually be reversed, but that is just how it is. This means that if you are choosing to go with one of the public school careers, then you are going to first want to be certified for teaching. This however, is a step that most people already take into consideration, so it should not be a cause of concern for most people.

A major advantage to pursuing a career in a public school is that they frequently offer excellent benefits. In fact, they are really the second best place to look for a good pension, second of course being to the government. Most schools will have a system that will work out for you how much you can get for a pension, and when you can start to see payments. Although this is pretty far down the road for most people, a good pension is something that is become increasingly uncommon, so you are really going to want to jump on any opportunity possible to secure an impressive one like this.

Above are just some of the many things that one should remember when they are beginning a career in the public schooling field. Even after taking this stuff into consideration, it is still ultimately up to you if you know you want to do.

Nov252011

Budget Cuts Affecting Public Schools

One of the inherent disadvantages of sending your kid to a public school is that their education is a direct correlation to the budget that the school has to spend. Moreover, the school’s budget is directly related to how much the city is willing to give to them. So if the city needs to save money and decides to cut spending on public education, that isn’t going to do good things for your child’s education; your kid’s education is pretty much at the mercy of the city’s finance. Of course, it really is not as scary as that sounds, and most all cities will know that education is a hugely important part of their budget, and adjust accordingly. So how exactly are budget cuts affecting public schools?

Sometimes you will not even notice the effects of a school’s budget cuts, perhaps if it is a relatively small one for a larger school. Nevertheless, other times in times of recessions, there are going to have to be some drastic budget cuts. These are going to be the ones that you are going to notice, and in this article, we are going to cover how you can identify these budget cuts.

Most of us can remember the times when we were in college; and one of the biggest expenses other than tuition was textbooks. This is not just true of college textbooks, as ones used in all public schools can be extremely expensive, often costing over $100 apiece. So when you take this into consideration, it should really be of no surprise that filling an entire school with these textbooks is an extremely expensive chore to do, and one that not all public schools can afford to do. Therefore, when a school is making some budget cuts, usually the textbooks are going to be effect first. Yes, you will still have textbooks made available to your kids, but you probably are not going to be getting the most recent textbooks available.

Some of the repercussions of having budget cuts affecting public schools are not as subtle as using slightly outdated textbooks. Sometimes the entire athletics can be affected in one way or another by a budget cut. This may not be the case for the majority of the time, but it has been known to happen. In this scenario, most sports will still be practiced by the school, but you may have slightly second-rate sports equipment, or a school gym that has not been properly maintained. The point is that when budget cuts affecting public schools happen, no part of the school’s funding is off limits for budget cuts.

When looking at a school’s finances, and where the money goes, you would be surprised at the huge variety of different stuff that they spend money on. For instance, substitute teachers aren’t going to be doing their job for free (for obvious reasons), so it is up to the school to pay for them when a teacher can’t make it to work for whatever reason. Even though substitutes are still going to be paid when there are budget cuts, it is certainly going to put an extra strain on the school’s finances.

So in conclusion, there are many different ways things to remember happen when budget cuts are affecting public schools. A school obviously cannot operate without a steady cash flow, and whenever that is interrupted, there are going to be some drastic measures that the school is going to have to do.

Nov152011

Athletics in Public Schools

For many people, sports really are a way of life. It dominates all of their free time; it determines what foods they put in their body, and even the people that they will meet for the rest of their lives. Sports and athleticism really are a way of life for a lot of people, and for most of these athletes, you can trace their obsession with whatever sport they are doing all the way back to when they were partaking athletics in public schools. When you think about this and the emphasis people put on athletics when they are in a public school, it really is no surprise that you see so much rivalry and sportsmanship between sports, especially in high school football and baseball teams. If you want to learn more about the athletics in public schools, then you are in the correct place because that is exactly what we are going to be covering here.

The first thing you will notice when studying the types of different athletics in public schools is that there is not just one type of sports; rather there are actually many different kinds. This should not come as much of a surprise to anybody who has attended a public school in his or her past, but to some people it is actually quite interesting. The different kinds of sports that are practiced at the school will depend on the region that the school is in. For example, you probably will not find any school ice hockey teams in a place where it is normally very hot year around, simply because this is what the climate dictates. Having said this, there are still going to be those sports that you see everywhere, like football, soccer, baseball, tennis and wrestling.

As with any other kind of school facility, the amount of different sports you are going to see at the school is going to depend on their facilities to support that specific sport. Obviously, you are not going to see a school with a school swimming team that does not even have their own pool, which would just be impractical and would be doing their team a disservice. This goes for other sports than swimming too, for instance if a school cannot afford to build a baseball diamond on their property, they probably are not going to have a team.

An important aspect to remember when learning about the athletic programs in public schools is the different teams that are used to organize the sport. As with any other sport, you are not going to want to put some of your worst players on the same team as your best, this would just make it harder for them to win. Athletics in public schools are no exception to this, and people are divided into what are generally 3 different categories, depending on their skill. As an example for soccer, you would have freshman soccer (used by only freshman), junior-varsity soccer, and then varsity soccer. Each successive level you will find players that are of a generally higher skill.

Coaching is also an interesting aspect of the athletics that are used in public schools, as they also have to be teachers the other parts of the time. This means that their time is divided between the two things, which some say can have adverse effects on the team’s performance. However, as long as all of the schools in the district observe this rule, it can remain as a fair way to play the sports. You will also often find multiple coaches for one team, which some of the larger schools use to give their team a competitive edge over the others.

Nov082011

Public Schools vs. Private Schools

When you are deciding which path to take, you are going to have a lot of choice on your hands when it comes to sending your kid to a school. Moreover, each choice boils down to these two options: whether you want your kid attending one of the Public schools vs. Private schools. This debate has been raging on for quite a while, and each side has their own set of followers who are firm believers in what they chose to go with. Of course, each choice is going to have their own set of unique advantages and disadvantages, which is precisely what we are going to be discussing in this article. If you think that you may be interested in choosing one of them, be sure to consider some of the things that we are going to be covering in this article.

First, we will start out with the pros of attending a Private School. Many people seem to view attending a private school as a sort of “snobby” thing to do, and something that is only reserved for very wealthy individuals. This may have been true decades ago, but nowadays it could not be falser, and many private schools have financial aid plans that make attending them a possibility. You can also take comfort in the fact that your kid is going to get more one on one time with the professor, and classes are small, generally speaking.

Of course, there are going to be some cons that anybody who is thinking about using a Private school should take into consideration. Even though they do make financial aid available to all, it is still much, much more expensive to use a private school rather than a public one. In addition, you are going to have to provide the transportation for your kid to go to and from school, since it will not be provided by the school.

To be honest, there are many reasons why someone would choose a public school over a private one. The most obvious reason to choose a public school over a private one is the price. There are other benefits too, like building a sense of community with the fellow students and even the teachers working there. This sense of community is certainly there in private schools, but to a lesser degree. Transportation is always going to be provided to the families who are attending a public school, which is a huge advantage of private. Another reason may sports teams, which many times are not offered at a private school for one reason of another. For huge sports fans, this is usually the main reason why they would choose to go with a public school.

In the public schools vs. private schools debate, there are also going to be some cons to take into consideration. For one, you are usually going to have a larger amount of students assigned to each teacher, which will mean that students are not going to get as much one on one time with their teacher. On top of that, most classes that are offered in public schools are of an intermediate learning level, which means that if you are an above average student, you may not be catered to as well as if you were otherwise in a private school.

Nov042011

Public Schools Curriculum

The public school curriculum is usually a big question that as a parent you may have as your entire goal is to make the best decision for your child and their future – it is a very important decision. When it comes down to the decision between public and private, one must weigh up the financial cost and educational benefit from each. Before making a decision, it is necessary for one to understand the differences between each type of school and from there, you can make a sound decision.

First and most importantly is funding and financial cost. Public schools are given their allocated income directly from state and federal funds. Almost 75% of all schools in the nation are public schools, so there is a much greater variety and choice compared to private schools. Since private schools do not receive funding from state or federal governments, the parents of the students provide the costs. Regardless of educational performance, this is usually the biggest factor and should be taken seriously. Education is important, but struggling to make ends meet is just as important and may even jeopardize the child’s education as compared to finding an almost as equivalent public counter-part.

Academic reputation is a big factor that comes into the private schools benefit – most private schools have a much more rigorous academic schedule and from that comes their reputation.  Many private schools focus on college preparation, which may be perfect for your child.

Class sizes are very important also since the premise behind this is that the teachers have less work involved with each class so they can spend more time with the students and less time grading papers. There is more one-on-one time and more time in total divided by each student, whether that is more questions answered, or more topics covered. With private schools, the class sizes can be kept smaller since they are not always, as budget impoverished as public schools that must provide for the masses regardless.

Safety at private schools usually is greater than public because of the location and the pick-and-choose environment that private schools have. Even in an unsafe area, there may be a safe private school so keep this in mind.

Special programs are one of the biggest differences between public and private. Private schools may only provide programs for gifted individuals as opposed to handicapped which all public schools must provide for. If your child needs a certain type of education, you must ensure that he will be provided for adequately at their institution. Other than that, private schools may offer more extra-curricular activities that a public school simply cannot afford such as martial arts and other smaller more specialized activities.

Religious or moral instruction is what most families use to set apart the public and private system. Most private institutions have a certain religious affiliation, or a moral code that they use to set themselves apart from anybody else. Most parents will pay the added cost to have their child in this certain type of environment. In a public school, there is no religious or moral doctrine other than the standard school code of conduct.

When it comes down to the decision, ensure that you weigh the costs and benefits. Will the additional cost cause unforeseen circumstances down the road for your family financially, or will you be able to afford the added cost? Is the location right for your child? Is the religious or moral instruction in tune with your beliefs?

Nov042011

Top Public High Schools

Being in one of the top public high schools is a very prestigious honor that all high schools across the country seek to attain. It provides a number of great benefits. First of all an increase in funding across the board and secondly it attracts more of the same audience, intelligent students.

During the current financial crisis, secondary education has become a challenging area. There are many schools that have had severe funding issues from state or federal areas and with the No Child Left Behind mandates, it has become difficult for schools located in more economically struggling areas to have their students graduate successfully passing the exit exam.

The criteria have been updated for a high school to become known as a top public high school. There are six components that comprise of the award, and while they are a bit too long to be included in this article, they can easily be accessed through a quick and simple Google search.

As you can see, the majority of these criteria would be struggled to achieve in poorer areas since being able to take AP courses requires more time at home studying, and also an increase in costs to actually take the course since most of them will require further, usually more expensive books and materials to take it. Many poorer areas will not have their young adult attend college because they simply cannot afford it and they go straight into the work force to help pay for family expenses. In addition to this, the poorer schools may simply not even offer a wide variety of AP courses because of a lack of funding, teaching expenses, or even simply down to a lack of demand.

It is no surprise that the top 20 of the public high schools in the nations subsidized lunch are amount the lowest levels, most of which are averaging only 10% compared to the poorer schools with a much, much higher percentage.

Many are unaware, but some of the top high schools actually have an entrance exam. At the Bronx High school of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School and Stuyvesant High school in New York, named some of the top public high schools, there has been a slow decline in the number of African American and Hispanic admission rates. The schools have not changed the process to which to allow entrants into the program, but they believe that the low-income students have progressively found it more difficult to keep up with middle-class families when it comes to preparation for high school.

When it comes to other categories that have been tracked, the SAT scores are very obviously higher in the higher ranked top public high schools along with the percentage of teachers with 10+ years experience. This does not necessarily always mean that this proves teachers with greater experience provide a better education – you must take into the fact that teachers want to get a job in the best performing school for both their job happiness and more than likely a better annual salary. Therefore, it is twofold when it comes down to it. Graduation rates in the top schools are extremely high – some peaking at 97%.

When it comes down to choosing a school from one listed on the Top Public High Schools, remember that the lists are often quite small and differences between each school may be very small. The main thing you can look to do is find a good quality school that is on the list that is close to you and is convenient. If you have to drive an extra 15mins every day to take your child to school or to attend extra-curricular activities, it may cause distress leading to a worse education than picking a school closer to home.