kitchen table math, the sequel: "Wasting time in school"

Friday, June 28, 2013

"Wasting time in school"

Have just this moment stumbled upon a UK education blog: Wasting Time in School."

Check out this post.


This reminds me of that business idea we all had a while back, doing school projects for beleaguered parents.

Thought experiment: since the parents are already doing the projects & everyone knows it....wouldn't a School Project Business be legit in a way a term-paper business is not?

I think it might.


SteveH said...

It's the very mixed ability group project time! It doesn't matter if one of the members continually cuts up your project. My son was told that their group had to work it out because it's like real life, even though the school hires teachers trained in special ed. Apparently, the regular teachers don't have to work it out. And, everyone gets a group grade. We have to prepare these kids for real life. Time to watch "The Office."

It's diorama time! Never mind that not everyone has a visual learning style - their idea, not mine. Never mind that the schools don't teach students any skills in graphic art or even planning. I'm talking about simple things like centering text. I'm sure that when the teacher saw that, she knew I was involved. We really need to stop calling them teachers. They don't even want the parents to teach. They are anti-teachers.

How about using a potted plant (or a bass mounted on the wall) with a motion sensor. Every time a student walks by, a recording would say something like: "Nice job Jimmy. Keep trying!" Then, every so often, it could say to the class things like: "Work together and think outside of the box." "Work quietly and respectfully." "Work mindfully." I just checked. There is a website called "". (This is one of those web sites that blocks the "back" arrow. I'm in the present and that really pisses me off.) "Yes, I'm in the present, but presently, George is kicking me under the table."

Time to make bridges out of popsicle sticks and see how much load they can take before breaking! Just give them a picture handout that shows a bunch of trusses. Forget understanding. Let them use trial and error. Let them Google and just copy someone else's design. The student/parent/teacher night where they tested all of the bridges was a great success, because, well, "fun" is the operative word. The goal of teaching is engagement, not content and skills. Few realized that the best results used special glue. Did they have a post contest review of designs? Do I have to ask? Process over results.

Good ol' rote education. If you really don't like art and working with people (or if you just know that you will have to do the project yourself), you're screwed. You can't "mindful" away bad behavior in others. It's "best practice", however, because, well, they say so.

They don't want parents to help with art projects at home, but they send home notes telling parents to work on "math facts."

I rest my case.

palisadesk said...

The kinds of situations Catherine and SteveH describe differ significantly from those in lower SES communities and schools, I find. For example, the idea that parents will do projects -- or even help much, or buy the materials -- is almost completely absent in most schools I've taught in during the last decade at least. We know the parents don't have the money to buy stuff, the school rarely has budgets to cover lots of art materials and we can't require work for credit from students unless we supply what is needed to complete it; thus we have very few "project" type assignments of any magnitude.

I have not seen a diorama from a student in any grade for at least 5 years. Those teachers who do a lot of artsy things in their class typically buy their own materials. The days of having a central supply room in the school have vanished into the mists of time. I see almost no "project-type" work in class, either, although there is some group work in science, drama, social studies -- usually focused on completing a task with shared materials -- classifying rocks, devising a tableau or skit to represent a historical event. I don't see much group work in math except occasionally for such things as constructing 3-d models or solving particular measurement problems that require two or three people.

We have a renewed attention to rote work and basic skills which (again) need to be done in school as much as possible, because children have limited opportunity to consolidate them at home. Our parent community tends to be fairly traditional in its expectations and this helps.

While I used to see the "progressive" excesses in low-SES schools, I haven't seen this for a while -- quite the opposite trend actually. But, it is going strong in our upper-income schools and magnet/choice schools, ironically. Almost all the students at these schools are from fairly affluent homes and most (definitely not all) families are supportive of the "activity-based" approach and supplement with private tutoring services to make up for the lack of emphasis on basics.

I find it quite a noticeable divide, really a 2-tiered system. What's ironic(perhaps) is that the students from my current school, almost all nonwhite, low-income and about 50% immigrant, perform academically at a level comparable to the leafy suburbs. What a researcher from my district observed some years back still sticks in my mind: she found that the quality of teaching in the low-SES downtown schools in her study was a quantum leap beyond that in the well-to-do neighborhoods where the schools left the nitty-gritty to the parents.

Seems like that has not really changed, but our attention to the aggressive teaching of the lower-performers really has shown benefits.

TerriW said...

I vaguely remember a post awhile back about a study saying that charters have better results in low SES than high SES. I wondered if that reflects what palisadesk said, writ large -- in a charter, the high SES folks can really let their freak flag fly.

lgm said...

My district is only 25% poverty; but due to all of the reasons Palisadesk mentioned, projects were banned when nclb/full inclusion started. Science Fair went the way of IB (directly to trash can) as our admin decided to make the entire district act as if they all were in poverty.

momof4 said...

I'd love to see what would happen if my kids old ES (affluent leafy DC suburb) was given permission to start a Core Knowledge (even better, Classical) program, combined with Singapore Math and teacher-centered, traditional instruction. I'm willing to bet that, within a couple of years, the kids would be so far ahead of the other ESs in the cluster that the others would be screaming for the same thing. I don't think many parents really understand how the progressive practices slow things down or how fast and far kids can go with explicit instruction and a strong curriculum.

Jen said...

"I vaguely remember a post awhile back about a study saying that charters have better results in low SES than high SES."

Of course, a lot of this also has to do with the tests being used to measure "results." In many high SES areas, kids have always and will continue to score in the higher percentiles. The tests don't measure how much those kids do know or, more importantly, COULD know if...taught.