Thursday, March 04, 2010


(fm the BC thread "To Sir With Love")

Mandatory public education should end at grade 8

On occasion I have called for the abolition of the 12th grade. In NY now a student can stay in the public system until they are 21 years old, or they get caught. This is undoubtedly a source of education for the 15 year olds they are given access to but serves no larger good. It would be better if everyone after their 19th birthday was issued a certificate listing their actual level of attainment in every subject, such a certificate being more meaningful than the current diploma anyway, and if still not graduated directed to a GED program affiliated with a nearby Community College.

My scheme also includes six months of basic military, citizenship and disaster survival training after the 17th birthday. Among many other benefits that would provide a clear and universal bright line demarcation between childhood and the responsible adulthood of an enfranchised citizen.

Your numbers seem a little extreme but I do believe that the percentage of graduates has not changed significantly over the last hundred years. What has changed dramatically for the worse is the quality of the education that the secondary school diploma represents.

If the Teacher wants to expel your intelligent and well mannered child then you should be free to take your business, and your money, elsewhere. Right now teachers are instructed to be careful to encourage students to remain in class for at least the first three weeks, two weeks for Summer School. That means that the first examination usually happens at the end of week three. The reason for that is that funding is based on reported attendance during that period. Think of it as like a form of Sweeps Week for determining television advertising rates. When the local news is running stories on teenage prostitution you know they really care how many people are watching. In a real Voucher system they would lose your money on the day you withdraw registration, but keep it otherwise.

Teachers should be empowered to order a disruptive student out of their class. Now they can expect the administration to put that same problem right back in their room. Students know about Respect, they care about it. When you ask why someone got killed after stepping on someone's shoes they will say "He dissed him." When a disruptive student is returned to a classroom the entire school knows that the teacher has been "dissed." That destroys the teacher and reduces them to a hack just going through the motions to pick up a paycheck.

Administrators do that for a few reasons. First to establish their enormous and arbitrary power over the teachers. Second to curry favor with confrontational parents, senior administrators who track suspensions as a metric held against the Principal, and outside activists. Third they keep the student around to keep the money.

In a good Voucher scheme the money would stay where the student is registered even if they cut school, although a student should be removed from the roll after three weeks of unauthorized absence, and the teacher could order the student out in the expectation that within reason the Principal will back them up. Obviously a teacher who tries to get rid of most of their students will not have a job for very long. If teachers in many urban schools was told that they could pick 5 out of 35 on their register who should be told to seek other opportunities that would be reasonable. In fact the Principals would try to reassign some of them first but any student who gets two strikes should be out. It is also true that an experienced teacher would use their judgment. Some problems may be so obvious that you would have to act in the first week. For other problems it may make sense to wait and not spend the valuable expulsion card in the expectation that the student is going to drop out anyway.

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