Math for Hybrid-Education Option

In a previous post I mentioned a hybrid-education model as a potential viable and practical alternative to the failing public school system. My purpose is to find a practical and productive passage through the minefield of public education for my grandchildren.

 

The obvious options available are as follows:

 

  • Private School Although private schools arguably offer the best education alternative money can buy, money is the key word. Neither the parents nor I can afford this option for my grandchildren much less the time and expense of the transportation involved. Private K through 12 schools are expensive with tuition and fees reaching $ 30,000 plus per year for day school. Boarding schools are even much higher.

  • Parochial or Religion Based School The quality of education are generally excellent but there are exceptions. These schools are less expensive, generally in the range of 25% to 50% of private schools, but education quality, while superior to the majority of public schools, needs to be checked closely. Cost and transportation will also be an eliminating factor for many. Also, many of these schools have competitive entrance testing and thus eliminate the less fortunate even if their parents could afford the tuition and transportation factors.

  • Move to A Town With Top Public Schools There are areas that have high quality public schools and people living in these areas are indeed fortunate. A family could solve their quality education problem by moving to one of these towns. These towns are inevitably affluent, high-income areas and the cost of housing or rents reflect this. Aside from the many issues associated with packing up and moving, the increase in the cost of like housing and real estate taxes are daunting to most.

  • Home Schooling This is an excellent choice for many. In fact more than 3% of school aged children in the United States are home schooled. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=91 This is a large, and growing number for many reasons and my suggested hybrid-education option does not address them all. 1) 36% wish to include religious or moral training. 2) 21% have parents with overriding school environmental concerns, e. g., safety, drugs, bullying, negative peer pressure. 3) 17% are dissatisfied with the quality of academic instruction. [Note: my own belief, given that 74% of public schools are failing, is that this reason alone should become the most significant driving factor for seeking alternatives.] 4) 14% name Other, e. g., family time, family travel, distance from schools. 5) 7% desire a non-traditional approach to education. 6) 6% have child health or special needs as a reason. The obvious question with home schooling is the need for someone with the competence and time to administer and teach the children. In most cases this will require one parent to be available to perform the necessary tasks.

  • Charter School This can be an attractive option for those living near a charter school. The drawbacks are they are relatively few in number (less than 3.7% of public school students go to charter schools) and as a result charter schools resort to a competitive or a lottery system for admittance. Given the limited number of charter schools it is not a practical option for most students.

  • Hybrid-Education (Public School with a limited home school but independent, self-directed, component) This alternative maintains attendance in the local public or charter school and introduces relatively low-cost supplements for the critical subjects of math, reading and writing. This post will address the critical subject math. Reading and writing will follow in subsequent posts.

 

 

Finding The Right Curriculum

 

Choosing the right curriculum is fundamental to my needs. The offered curricula are numerous (68 for K-8, approximately 12 for advanced math (preliminary algebra, algebra 1, algebra 2, trigonometry, and calculus), and 6 for geometry. http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/ Many are similar, particularly in K-8, but there are differences. It seems that the home school market can support the many different curricula because of the varied learning styles and preferences of children and their parents. It amazes me how many accounts there are of parents switching programs even during the school year due to a mismatch between student learning style and their chosen curriculum. The fact that these math curricula are relatively low cost makes it affordable for many if not most parents to switch if they are not getting expected results from their chosen math program.

 

My need is for a curriculum that is mainly student directed. One in which a student needs only parent oversight and not a teacher. The teaching is handled by a text book and a CD or computer online video. I was looking for a comprehensive course that meets this need. I will attempt to put this search for the “right” curriculum in perspective with a summary of the search. I used a number of resources in my work and I wish to single out two main ones. First is from a home school curriculum forum from a great blog titled Confessions of a Homeschooler by Erica. A really wonderful blog worthwhile to visit. http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2013/04/homeschool-math-curriculum-forum.html

The second source is from http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/ which provides meaningful comments and insights on numerous math curricula.

 

Top 10 Math Courses

      K-8 (2) Ad. Math (2) Geometry (2)
Rank Math Curricula Forum Users (1) # pgs comments

# pgs

comments

# pgs. Comments
           
1 Math U See 46 10 3 na
2 Horizons & alpha omega 26 10 1 4
3 Teaching Textbooks 22 8 10 1
4 Saxon Math 19 10 9 1
5 Singapore Math 13 10 na (3) na
6 Abeka 12 10 na na
7 Math Mammoth 9 9 na na
7 Life of Fred 9 4 na na
7 Right Start 9   na na
10 BJU/Bob Jones 3 10 na na
10 Rod and Staff 3 10 na na
10 A+TutorSoft 3 1 na na
           
           
Note (1) From confessionsofahomeschooler blog        
Note (2) From homeschoolreviews.com        
Note (3) na = not observed        

 

Why Teaching Textbooks (TT)

 

The curriculum meeting my criteria is Teaching Textbooks. http://www.teachingtextbooks.com/

The most significant factor for me is the course does not require a parent teacher or tutor. The textbook and CD cover the material in depth and the student can progress at their own comfortable pace with a parent’s role limited to one of oversight. This is huge plus for me. Teaching Textbooks receives great reviews from from the confessionsofahomeschooler.com forum and from homeschoolreviews.com. The Teaching Textbook website provides a demonstration of their teaching methodology and clips of their differences between them and traditional methods. The one potential negative mentioned by one commenter is TT was not challenging enough for their gifted daughter although it met the needs of a second daughter. For those with gifted math students they may find the need to switch to another curriculum or to find supplemental work. I note that one student commented that he used TT throughout high school years and got perfect scores on his math SAT and ACT. At any rate, the multiple market products and customer comments indicates that not any one product will be the right one for everyone.

 

Cost Considerations

 

Costs for TT are higher than others in the Top 10. However,costs are far from prohibitive. Where other curricula can range from approximately $75 to $125, TT may be approximately 50% higher.

This is a relatively small cost increase for the advantage gained of time saved from limited parent input.

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The New Honors Math

A recently released study by the National Center for Educational Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, found that a majority of public schools teaching honors Algebra I and honors Geometry are in fact teaching intermediate Algebra I and intermediate Geometry according to student test scores. Following is a quote from the study:

Approximately 73 percent of graduates in “honors” algebra I classes received a curriculum ranked as an intermediate algebra I course, while 62 percent of graduates who took a geometry course labeled “honors” by their school received a curriculum ranked as intermediate geometry. Graduates who took rigorous algebra I and geometry courses scored higher on NAEP than graduates who took beginner or intermediate courses.

http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2013451

Presumably, honors mathematics courses are only offered to the most capable students and therefore they should be able to learn honors course work. Why do a majority of public schools promote honors math courses on ly to teach intermediate level courses? Are qualified teachers to difficult to find? Have high schools seen the results of poor primary and intermediate schools for so long that they now know even the most capable students are not prepared to handle rigorous course work and therefore intentionally mislead students to believe they are getting honors courses? I suspect it may be both of these.

The important thing that I take from this study is that the public schools that need fixing will not be fixed in time for those currently in the system. If your public school is failing to prepare students for college or a career, as 75 % of them are, see my previous post, http://tinyurl.com/cf3nen5, then chances are the most capable students are not being prepared either.

Consider the information in the table below which is made up of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Www.bls.gov

Unemployment Rate Degree Average Weekly Pay
     
2 Doctoral $1,550
     
4 Masters $1,270
     
5 Bachelors $1,040
     
10 High School $630
     
15 Some High School $440

This table, which is based on 2011 income and unemployment data, is a major indicator on why education is important and becoming more important with each passing year. The United States education is experiencing an “arms race” with the other industrialized nations and we are loosing. Our children are in desperate need of a quality education and the majority of them are not getting it. Even those in failing schools offering honors courses are not getting what is advertised.

My intent is to propose a low-cost, hybrid education model as a means to cope with the current systemic education deficiencies. This task is more difficult than I initially anticipated, but work goes on. I plan to post progress on a weekly basis with additional posts as developed.

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thatweirdhomesc…

thatweirdhomeschooledgirl • 2 months ago − NOTE TO THE GOVERNMENT: Your job is to *govern* us, not teach our children. Because not everyone can teach their own children or afford private education, and because education *is* a right, you have been given the *privilege* of education. Parents have a right, you have a privilege. You can not take that right from the parents. They can, however, take that privilege from you, and home or private school their children.

The United States Department of Justice has filed a brief with the Court of Appeals, Sixth District in opposition to the German family, Romeike, home schooling their family.Holder and DOJ claimes, among other things, that a law prohibiting home schooling does not violate anyone’s rights.  How outrageous! Our government believes home schooling can be outlawed without the violation of anyone’s rights. Fortunately, Michael Farris, Founder of the Home School Defense Association, has eloquently argued how our government is wrong. See link http://tinyurl.com/c49jpfr for Michael’s basis and background for his brief and beliefs. The above partial quote is from a reader of  Michael’s article.

Yesterday I was complimentary to President Obama relative to his efforts in trying to achieve public school reform.   Reform is long overdue and he and his administration are doing the right thing here.  Looking beyond the obvious however, raises questions regarding the motives involved.  We know how the President feels about public education but how does he feel about its alternatives? His administration’s early action against the Washington D. C. vouchers tells us his position there.  This current action tells us what his administration’s position regarding home schooling.  Am I leaping too far in proposing that the masses are meant to be educated in government (public) schools in a carefully crafted curriculum molding young minds in group think?  A question deserving more thought and analysis.  I can not dismiss the critics’ charges that the Department of Education’s Common Core standards are riddled with Marxist doctrine.  Are all these things tied together?

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Teacher’s Unions – Times Are Changing

Just after I followed-the-money and convinced myself once again that teacher’s unions were impenetrable even to simultaneous attacks from the progressive left and from the political right, cracks in their lines have appeared. Articles on Google this week indicate the unions are fighting on multiple fronts in the United States and in Mexico and as far away as Australia.   Republicans have little to fear or lose in these attacks as they receive zero percent of the union political donations.  The Democrats on the other hand have much to lose as they receive 100 percent of the union donations and a majority of the teacher votes. Even President Obama, to his credit, has come down on the side of real reform.  Many on the progressive left, have long recognized the need for meaningful educational reform and have worked for it.

Los Angeles, CA

My original link on this story identified this morning with a trojan bug so I shall not include it. It was a blog from a teachers organization in LA and it is clear many teachers and their union are unhappy with the LA School District Superintendent, Dr. John Deasy.  It seems he is firing bad teachers.  The blog rants on and on how “corporate” interests have co-opted President Obama, his administration, and many Democrats.  In place of the defective link I have included another recent one that gives you insight to what is happening with education reform in Los Angeles. It is not that long and it is a great read.

http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_23023855/lausd-chief-john-deasy-draws-fire-he-pursues

John Deasy recently said at a speech at Loyola Marymount University referring to his mandate from the board of education,

“I agreed to take this job and lead a transformation of the Los Angeles  to his Unified public schools,” Deasy told the group of education leaders. “And I kept a very simple contract with the Board of Education: The day that four of you are unhappy, drop me a note and this is over.

“In the meantime, I am going to move very quickly to honor youth rights so that every single one can graduate, college- or career-ready. Not some. Not most.

John Deasy will mark his second anniversary as LAUSD superintendent on Monday, April 15, 2013. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

But everyone.”

Dr. Deasy, Superintendent of the nations second largest school district, is indeed making omelettes.

Lawrence, MA

The city of Lawrence lost control of their public school system due to chronic poor performance.  Massachusetts placed the schools in receivership in 2012 and and the new person in charge plans to implement changes beginning in the next school year.  Receiver Jeffery Riley intends to implement a performance-based salary structure and a longer school day.  The union is appealing these plans claiming it goes beyond the receiver’s authority.

http://tinyurl.com/bef3rtc

Louisiana Lessons for Legislators

This article draws an interesting comparison between the current legislators in Louisiana and their position with popular teachers and their powerful unions and Margret Thatcher’s position versus the popular coal miners union in the 1980’s in England. Margret Thatcher recognized the miners and unions were doing great harm to the economy of the country and politically courageous action was needed for England to get back on a prosperous path. Like Thatcher, the Louisiana legislators recognized the need for reform and had taken action and now need the political courage to stay the course. This is a good read and it frames the issue for many politicians in the country.

http://thehayride.com/2013/04/kane-lessons-for-legislators-from-margaret-thatcher/

Mexico

Mexican kids test last among the industrialized nations.  They have no place to go but up and that is precisely what the new government want to happen.  Their proposed reforms are drawing huge opposition from their teacher’s union and teachers. The linked article briefly discusses the problem. It amazes me that the government of Mexico has not only the courage to recognize the need for major reform but also the courage to actually pass reform laws. Let’s hope they can stay the course in the face of significant opposition.

http://tinyurl.com/bfh7p8s

Australia

This appears to be a case of where the teacher’s union made negotiated concessions with the state of Victoria’s government but then did not have the courage to accurately characterize the agreements to the public and to their members. Now the teachers are furious.  Another interesting read.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/04/22/deal-a22.html

The articles above represent, in my view, examples of the coming struggles of an awakening public and their representative governments that public education is broken and reform is desperately needed.  Now resolve and courage is needed to continue the effort.  My guess is that successful education reform is one area that President Obama wants very much to place in his legacy.  This issue should be relatively easy to fashion bi-partisan support.

English: St. Vincent's College (now Loyola Mar...

English: St. Vincent’s College (now Loyola Marymount University) in 1905; 2nd location. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collectionhttp://catalog1.lapl.org/. Category:Images of Los Angeles (Photo credit: Wikipedidiscusses the problem

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U.S. Education Facts With a Few Observations

  • The following facts are taken from Whitney Tilson’s filmed presentation titled, A Right Denied/The Critical Need For Genuine School Reform. I recommend readers watch the film of his presentation which can be found here: http://www.arightdenied.org/. Material from the presentation is in bold. It is well worth the one hour plus investment of your time.  After some of the facts presented, I add some personal comments found in parentheses and italics.

 

  • Wages for men have stagnated for the last 40 years and for women over the last 10 years. (We can understand why parents with families need to work two or three jobs to try to maintain the same  standard of living as their parents even before the Great Recession began.) 

Median earnings for a man with a high school diploma fell by 41% from 1970-2010. (See comment above. This is the bleak situation for a high school graduate that presumably can read and write and do basic math.  The situation with the current economy is even worse if the man even has a job today. The situation for high school drop outs is far worse in terms of wages by 42% less)

  • K-12 education spending per pupil per student, dollars adjusted for inflation, has more than quadrupled over the past 50 years from $3,000 to $12,460 in 2007. (We should ask is the education better now than then? Not according to test scores relative to students in the other industrialized nations.  Facilities may be better on average. Student to pupil ratios are certainly better. But quality of teaching is not better if 75% of public schools are failing to prepare students for college or a career.)
  • The United States spends more than any other country, with the exception of Switzerland, for education. (Who can argue, when faced with these facts, that massive reform is not needed. In fact, one might argue that we need to scrap the whole public school system and make a fresh start. Abolish all unions. Fire every teacher and post their current position as a job opening for which they can apply and compete for. It is not realistic to expect we as parents and grandparents can scrap the whole public school system. But we can bring a lot of public pressure to bear on school administrators, unions and teachers.  We need to organize and get active in our communities)
  • The rise in spending has been driven mainly by the tripling in the number of teachers over the past 50 years. As a result class sizes are smaller as the student to teacher ratios have dropped 43%. Average class size in U.S. slightly below the average of industrialized nations. (These are positives and we can probably thank some of the earlier work of the unions for these)
  • Why, despite a doubling of spending since the mid-70’s, has average educational attainment stagnated. Average SAT scores have stagnated as well.
  1. Teacher quality has fallen over the past few decades.
  2. Our school systems have become nonfunctional, bureaucratic and unaccountable
  3. Americans have become lazy, and complacent having lived in a rich nation for many years. Our youth spend more time watching TV, listening to music and playing video games than studying hard
  • Americans spend twice as much time watching TV as any other industrialized nation
  • American students at all grade levels are spending far more time watching TV than doing home work.  (Looking for a place to make a difference? Start by changing the culture at home. Get involved. Take an avid interest in your kids work habits and their studies and results. Give them help as best you can. Supplement their in-school work with online course work. Raise your expectations!)  
  • Student in 1999 spent an average of 7.29 hours per day watching TV, music, video and computer.  By 2009 the total hours per day had grown to 10.45.  (Parent can control this. We can not expect the public schools to shoulder the whole load. They spend far less time with our children than we do.  They are our children. It’s their future but it is our duty to put them on and keep them on the right track).
  • American college students on average spent 24 hours per week in 1960 on their studies outside of classes.  In 2009 students were spending only 14 hours per week.  (As an engineering student in 1960 I averaged far more than 24 hours per week. If today’s students are only averaging 14 hours we will continue to decline as a country.  Imagine some parents are spending more than $50,000 per year for their kids to put in 14 hours of work. Parents are spoiling their kids and doing them a grave disservice by not preparing them for the future.)
  • Recent U.S. results for 15 year old’s testing among the 36 industrialized nations. Reading scores 16 of 36. Science scores 23 of 36. Math scores 31 of 36.  (Poor and falling. Trend is not our friend.)
  •  U.S. 48th. of 133 nations in quality of math and science instruction.
  • Nearly half of students in our science and math graduate schools are foreigners. (Math and science majors are among the most difficult but are among the most rewarding financially.  Social workers and liberal arts have value but they don’t pay as well generally and they are not high among the skills needed to keep our country competitive in the world.)

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K-12 Education Choices

Choices

Public School

 75% of public school students will not be prepared for college or for a career. See the following:  http://tinyurl.com/dxgx954.  Sadly, most public schools are handicapped by their union’s fight for the status quo to maintain their power and influence. Reform resistance is also perpetrated by the school administration’s  bloated bureaucracy.

The good and exceptional teachers, and there are many, get caught up in a maze of “that’s not the way we do it here” mentality.  Public school reform is moving at glacial speed and is being fought at every turn by the unions and school establishment. Since the unions contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to politicians, you can understand why reform is slow and will not be in time to make a difference for current students.

The federal government is trying, in their politically constrained way (i,e, do not rock the boat of political contributions), to bring a level playing field to public schools through common standards, common curricula, and other guidance.  This program is called Common Core, but it does little to address the problem’s root causes of the unions and  bloated school bureaucracies. Critics are pointing out that the Common Core Program is laced with hate America and pro Marxist rhetoric. See http://tinyurl.com/cvrugbg and http://tinyurl.com/c9k2hmt.

Charter Schools and Choice of Local Public Schools

Legislation has added limited options to failing public schools for lower and middle-income families. See http://www.edreform.com/issues/choice-ch
arter-schools/laws-legislation/

Charter schools are making a difference (many but not all). However,  they are few in number, and generally use a lottery system to gain admission as many are oversubscribed. Check your area for availability http://tinyurl.com/78oyrqd   and rankings.  Advantages of charters schools is they are funded  the same as public schools and are essentially free. They are also free of the rules and bureaucracies of public schools and most are not represented by unions. These are all significant advantages over failing public schools.  Coming from the family of public schools they are subject to state and federal government edicts and policies that can be of controversial and non-traditional values.  Sex education, politically correct awareness, sensitivity training, anti-American and Marxist references are examples.

Private and Parochial Schools

The reasons for children attending private boarding or private day schools are many fold.  See these articles for a summary of many reasons for attending if you can afford them. http://tinyurl.com/q9fpq3  and http://tinyurl.com/ykszbsw.  The two significant disadvantages are cost and location.  Tuition and fees plus cost of transportation or boarding  are daunting.  Parochial/religious schools are generally less costly than private schools and some may offer courses in religion.  Public schools of course can not offer anything related to religion.

Online Learning

This is an area that is quickly gaining traction and offers  quality options for children of all ages.  It involves a computer and the Internet.  I think this area holds the most promise for those than can not afford a private school education.  Charter schools can vary widely in quality and can be an excellent option for those in reasonably close proximity to a quality school.  However the vast majority do not have this as a practical option.  Online learning is an area I plan to review in much more detail in subsequent postings.

Resources 

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only knowledge …

only knowledge changes your fate
Cao Weiping, mother of a student in rural China

About Me and Why I Write

 

I am a grandparent of 11 children ranging in age 18 months to 18 years and I am alarmed with the lack of quality education in the public school systems. The majority of our public schools are a disgrace. Meaningful reform is out of the question. If a family can not afford a private or a parochial school or can not move to an affluent community with good public schools, the future of their children is bleak. I believe, as a mother in China is quoted in a recent New York Times article, “only knowledge changes your fate”. This is what compels me to speak out.

 

Defenders of the status quo in public education will tell you times today are complicated. Education in many homes is not a priority or the children are from poor or broken homes or there is abuse or there is excessive competition from television, social networking and video games, etc. When confronted with the poor test scores in the United States they are likely to claim we test all our students and other industrialized nations do not.  This claim is bunk.

 

My early education was in public schools in the 1940’s and 50’s and I will grant that things were simpler then. Reading books from the library, the radio, sports and playing in the neighborhood were the only distractions from my studies. My family was poor; neither parent graduated high school and they were divorced by the time I turned nine. Neither parent viewed education as a top priority (making a living was an all consuming endeavor).

 

I was a good but uninspired and underachieving student. Following high school graduation  I joined the navy and there I was given the opportunity to compete and win a college scholarship that my public school education had prepared me for. Can most kids today expect to get the same opportunity?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

 

Public schools in most communities today do not come close to meeting expectations. I intend to write about these short comings and what  parents or grandparents can do to give their school kids a reasonable chance of overcoming the public school handicap. 

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