kitchen table math, the sequel: what do parents think?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

what do parents think?

This is interesting:
Overwhelming numbers of the public link job opportunities and economic success to education preparation, but almost one-half of parents believe today's graduates are less prepared for work or college than they were.
2010 survey - PDK (pdf file)


I would have predicted that the general public feels this way but not necessarily parents specifically.

I wonder if a majority of parents say students in their local schools are better prepared than students coming out of other schools --- ?


K9Sasha said...

Some years ago I had heard that overall parents believe schools aren't doing a good job, but that the school their child attends is fine.

It's similar to how people don't like the people in congress all that well, but often vote their own representatives back in.

Crimson Wife said...

FWIW, I think that the current honors track of my high school is quite a bit stronger in math & science than when I went through (I'm class of '95) but weaker in the humanities. Honors students used to take Algebra I in 8th and Calculus in 12th. Now they take Algebra I in 7th, AP Calculus in 11th, and "Post-AP Math" in 12th. There is also an AP Stats elective. The chemistry and physics courses are now AP and there's a new AP Computer Science course.

OTOH, the school no longer offers 3rd & 4th year Latin. And even where the other humanities courses remain nominally the same, the level of rigor isn't there. The veteran teachers who had held very high expectations for students have all retired (the last of them this past June). And the younger ones aren't nearly as good.

SteveH said...

"Post-AP Math" in 12th

What course(s) is that at your school? Our school only offers AP Stats if you happen to get done early, even though the calculus is only (AB).

As for economic success (looking at our relatives), level of education doesn't correlate very well with salary. In one example, the person who has the PhD earns less than the person who has the master's degree, who earns less than the person who didn't go to college. It would be interesting to see some numbers on how much economic success depends on risk, effort, family connections, and luck.

I'm also looking at things other than economic success for my son. I'm trying to look beyond just getting him into a good college. I talked with my brother-in-law (a research chemist at Dow) this summer about science and engineering jobs. We talked about how jobs in the US have changed in terms of expectations and stress. We were watching the Tour de France on TV and talking about how most of Europe was on holiday for 6 weeks. (My wife and I were on a 2 week vacation, the longest in years, and her bosses actually questioned why she had to take off 2 weeks in a row.)

My brother-in-law often goes to Dow facilities in Europe and talked about their different attitude. His colleagues don't understand why those in the US don't take more vacation time off. I said that many would love to negotiate for 6 weeks off instead of higher pay. That's assuming that you could also disconnect from your cell phone and email connection to work.

I think a key change in many jobs is that you can't get away ... ever. When my wife changed jobs, they really wanted her, but she had to fight hard to keep her 3 week vacation. But it's really not a true vacation. Even after 2 weeks off, the work was still sitting there and the time schedule didn't change. SusanS provided the video about kids who don't give a s***, but many modern jobs are teaching that ethic. Nobody can meet the schedule, so they just stop caring. Management thinks the stress and pressure to meet deadlines will create more results, but it has gone way past the optimum point. My brother-in-law's collegues in Europe point to how many of their companies are more successful. I'm not sure there is that correlation, but there isn't necessarily a correlation between stress and results in the US. Working your ass off when you're a young computer scientist might get you a great salary, but what happens when you hit 40 and the company thinks you're out-of-date and burned out - by definition?

This makes it harder to advise my son on his eventual choice between music and science. I don't want him to learn how to play the game better. I want him to create his own game.

Anonymous said...

We have some kind of "post AP Math" here, also. I have no idea what it is, but my son should be taking it senior year. I had heard somewhere that some kids went over to Northwestern, but I have no idea if that is still going on. I guess I need to look into it.

I can't imagine holding off AP Stats since the prerequisite is Alg 2. My son just took it as a freshman and made mostly A's and a 5 on the exam.

The right college fit (and cost) are on hour minds here, also. I would love to hear from some of you about strong math/science colleges that are smaller or aren't so obvious.


Anonymous said...

Un, "our" minds....


gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"Working your ass off when you're a young computer scientist might get you a great salary, but what happens when you hit 40 and the company thinks you're out-of-date and burned out - by definition?"

You go back to school and get a higher degree so that you can choose your own research. We have a lot of re-entry students in our department, some of whom are great.

Our high school allows kids who finish calculus to take math at the community college or university, but the math and science offerings at the school itself are thin.

Allison said...

Wow, Steve, I feel like I'm living on a parallel planet to you.

France is collapsing under the weight of its 6 weeks's vacations, pensions, early retirement, and native demographic collapse. Your brother in law lives in a fantasy land that simply won't go on much longer.

6 weeks vacation?? There's someone in China willing to do the same job for an annual salary of US $1000. Same in India or Bangladesh for 10k. The question is how can someone add enough value to justify getting paid US wages at all under those constraints.

Here, I'm not worrying about helping my kids to have more vacation; my husband and I are worrying that we'll *never* be able to retire given the trillions of dollars of debt the US congress and current administration are putting on us. You're worried he might make himself obsolete 25 years from now? I'm worried the USA will have been obsolete for 15 -20 years by then.

If my sons were high school age, I would be spending effort showing them just how much international competition they are under, and just how much work ethic, risk taking, and ingenuity they are going to need to survive what's coming with more than a pauper's lifestyle. I would be encouraging them to find some place that has economic opportunity, and that wouldn't be the US or Europe.

lgm said...

In my area, most are happy with the schools because they have moved here from the NYC boroughs. They are thrilled that this district will put their child in remedial or alternative rather than hold them back a grade.

Most parents who want more vote with their feet and go to neighboring districts that do offer advanced math and science classes or they take advantage of distance learning opportunities.

What worries me is that our baby boomers are not creating their own companies and thus jobs for younger people (other than their gardeners and au pairs, who appear to be illegal and/or working under the table). They are very happy to stay in the same safe job for decades, never retiring or going on to something new.

Linda Seebach said...

@SusanS: St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. (where I taught in 1965-71) is among the top four-year schools for preparing students for further work in math and science.

From the Math Dept. page: "Class of 2010: There will be 79 mathematics majors graduating in the class of 2010 -- one of the biggest classes ever, and the 2nd largest major (behind Biology) in 2010."

That's more than 10 percent of the graduating class!

Also a leader in music (you likely knew that) and study abroad (a large majority). Beautiful campus, nice town (I retired here).

ChemProf said...

Most liberal arts colleges are actually great for STEM, especially for a student who has strength in multiple areas. Particularly good schools for STEM include Carleton, Hope (especially for chemistry!), Pomona, and St. Olaf's. There are good research programs in science at Oberlin and Occidental, although I have been less impressed with their grads in general. Harvey Mudd can be a good choice if it is a good fit, but is a quirky place.

The big difference is that in a liberal arts college there are smaller lectures (still maybe 50-100 students, but not 500+), labs are taught by faculty rather than TAs, and there are more chances to connect with faculty and learn how to do research. Some of it is just scale. When I teach analytical chemistry, I teach the labs, and I can require my ~20 students to each do an independent project. At a local state school, they have more than 80 students in multiple lab sections, so that kind of "pre-research" project is just a logistical nightmare. I can also give up 4 classes and have my students all develop their projects into 10 minute oral presentations, modeling what they'd do in a research presentation. For 80 students, that would take 16 class periods or about a third of the semester, so it won't happen.

If you are checking out STEM at a liberal arts school, make sure you meet with faculty in the area your child is interested in. We are used to doing this, and the faculty should be able to tell you about research opportunities (including how many students get to participate) and about how many of their graduates get good jobs or into good graduate programs. In a good program, you'll barely be able to get the faculty member to shut up!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Linda and ChemProf,

I have a college book that names all (or most) of the smaller and mid size colleges. I'll definitely write your comments in on their pages.

I just have this feeling that the kid is going to be a small school kid, so I want to have a list of the better schools to visit when the time comes (and it's coming very soon).


SteveH said...

"Your brother in law lives in a fantasy land"

No, he lives in Midland, MI, home of Dow, which is able to make extrordinarily bad decisions no matter how hard the employees work. That's the point. I never said that France is a proper economic model.

I'm not talking about working less hard or not competing. I'm talking about seeing what makes up a successful and happy life, and that requires much more than becoming a hard-working economic cog.

"I would be encouraging them to find some place that has economic opportunity, and that wouldn't be the US or Europe."

Economic opportunity for whom?

SteveH said...

"St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. ... Also a leader in music .."

My brother-in-law also recommended Lawrence University. It has a conservatory of music. His daughter visited many small liberal arts colleges in the midwest. They really didn't like the vibe at Oberlin. She chose Wooster.

ChemProf said...

The "vibe" is an important thing to look for at small schools. While you can avoid some of the nuttiness of certain places in the science departments, you can't avoid all of it. The Claremonts are a good example:
Mudd - science/engineering, very geeky place
Scripps - all women, mostly humanities types
Pitzer - hippy wannabees
CMC - business-oriented, more conservative
Pomona - less of a specific vibe as it is the largest

Even though they are all next to each other, the character of the schools and the students are different.