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Old 09-10-2012, 04:29 PM
 
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Nice post arjay.

Too many parents (and apparently other people as well) focus on things that don't have much bearing on how "good" a school or teacher really is.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:34 PM
 
8,285 posts, read 10,223,443 times
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That's a great sentiment, arjay.

Your post is very setimental. It's very politically correct. It's also very anecdotal.

Can how "good" a school or teacher is be measured? Or for that matter how good a parent or person is? Of course not. Can an average or below average school produce extraordinary people? Of course it can.

But here's the problem: the logical person relies on empirical data. The right brained person, more feeling.

There really is no way to measure the worth of a school. It's not measurable. However, we try, and the best thing that we have come up with is test scores. And they are what they are. Most people accept them, but people who don't like the results can always poke holes in them because nobody ever tried to argue they are perfect.

So what would be a good metric? Maybe we could take a survey of every graduate from every school and calculate median income for every graduate. That would be a pretty good measure, but then people who didn't like those results could come back and argue that the success of a person isn't measured by their income, and maybe people at certain schools know more people who can get them high paying jobs.

In certain ways, there's no way to ever know. But the human mind can't muddle in ambiguity, so we invent systems to try to rank things. Is Stanford a better school than Georgia Southern? Of course it is. I know it is. You know it is. Everybody here knows it is. Still, there are going to be people that will say Georgia Southern has professors just as knowledgeable as those at Stanford and a lot of the graduates do just fine. Well, what a convenient argument that is, because it's impossible to argue against. Because it's not based in fact, it's based in supposition. Every fact that we can actually measure shows that Stanford is a better school, and the majority of us in the world accept it and move on. That's not necessarily a knock on anyone who chooses to go to Georgia Southern. That person just has to know that he isn't going to a school that is as good as Stanford. Or Northwestern. Or Yale. And so on.

The points in this thread can't be argued because there is no concrete way to measure them. The biggest thing we can argue is test scores because they are concrete. Most people out there have accepted them as fair indicators of what we would call good schools, predictors of success, etc. I don't really understand this refusal to accept what the facts are showing us. I live in Gwinnett county. Would I like for the high school I am districted for to be as good as Northview or Walton? Of course I would. But it's not. Instead of trying to argue that it is, I just accept that it's not. It doesn't make me a bad person, or the students who go there bad people. They simply aren't going to a school that's as good as where some other kids go.

The numbers are in. The rankings are in. And people who don't agree, well, they will always be able to try to point to evidence proving the consensus wrong. The problem is, in the absence of perfect evidence, the best evidence that we have must take precedence over inferior evidence.
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Old 09-10-2012, 05:53 PM
 
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It is common knowledge among educators that test scores are not a good measure of school quality and are not a good reason for merit pay. Maybe if you were on the inside you could see that as well - I don't know. What I do know is that I wouldn't try to argue with about the intricacies of your profession. I guess I'm not arrogant enough to do that.

You do realize that teachers at low-performing schools make the same salary as those at high-performing schools, right? If sounded like you didn't know that, but I hope that you do. I wonder if you even realize that high school teachers make the same salary as Kindergarten teachers...all teachers within the same school system work for the same employer.
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:05 PM
 
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Quote:
You do realize that teachers at low-performing schools make the same salary as those at high-performing schools, right?
Yes, I did know that. In fact, I thought that often teachers at the low performing schools even make more money. I don't know if there is such thing as bonus pay for going to one of those schools or if districts that contain them just typically have higher salaries. But I have heard time and time again teachers say things like, "I had to give up some pay to get out of there, but it was the best decision I ever made." Most of the time, they are switching districts, I don't know if this is true if you stay within.

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I wonder if you even realize that high school teachers make the same salary as Kindergarten teachers
I had never really thought about it. I figured that high school teachers probably made a little more than elementary school teachers, but I'm not shocked that they don't. I figured any difference would be minimal as the largest factors affecting teacher pay to my knowledge seem to be education level attained and years of service. I know merit pay for really good teachers has been a bit of a hot button issue for a long time.

I used to feel sorry for my teacher friends because the salaries really aren't that great. They aren't as terrible as they would have you believe, but they certainly aren't wonderful either. I stopped feeling so sorry for them as soon as I found out about their pensions. Now I only feel sorry for them for having to put up with children all day, but most of them don't mind that part of the job.
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:09 PM
 
6,611 posts, read 6,902,143 times
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Originally Posted by ATLTJL View Post
Yes, I did know that. In fact, I thought that often teachers at the low performing schools even make more money. I don't know if there is such thing as bonus pay for going to one of those schools or if districts that contain them just typically have higher salaries. But I have heard time and time again teachers say things like, "I had to give up some pay to get out of there, but it was the best decision I ever made." Most of the time, they are switching districts, I don't know if this is true if you stay within.


I had never really thought about it. I figured that high school teachers probably made a little more than elementary school teachers, but I'm not shocked that they don't. I figured any difference would be minimal as the largest factors affecting teacher pay to my knowledge seem to be education level attained and years of service. I know merit pay for really good teachers has been a bit of a hot button issue for a long time.

I used to feel sorry for my teacher friends because the salaries really aren't that great. They aren't as terrible as they would have you believe, but they certainly aren't wonderful either. I stopped feeling so sorry for them as soon as I found out about their pensions. Now I only feel sorry for them for having to put up with children all day, but most of them don't mind that part of the job.
All teachers within a school system are paid the same salary, with the exceptions of advanced degree and years of service differences. Teachers at one school are not paid more than teachers at another within the same system. Fulton County pays more than both Cobb and Gwinnett, and City of Atlanta pays more than Fulton.

I agree - teacher salaries are not as bad as some people make them out to be...for what we do and for the education required we could be paid more, but the pay is livable.

Kids are easier to put up with all day than adults are. I know not to expect much from kids...they aren't mature enough to always make good decisions. Adults, on the other hand, never cease to disappoint me.

Last edited by JoeTarheel; 09-10-2012 at 07:40 PM..
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Old 09-10-2012, 07:38 PM
 
29,284 posts, read 26,221,101 times
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Originally Posted by ATLTJL View Post
The biggest thing we can argue is test scores because they are concrete. Most people out there have accepted them as fair indicators of what we would call good schools, predictors of success, etc. I don't really understand this refusal to accept what the facts are showing us. I live in Gwinnett county. Would I like for the high school I am districted for to be as good as Northview or Walton? Of course I would. But it's not. Instead of trying to argue that it is, I just accept that it's not.
Who is this we, kemosabe? You may have accepted that test scores are concrete indicators of how good a school is, but not all of us have.

You say you don't understand the refusal to accept that as "fact," yet I get the sense that you are not entirely comfortable with it either. Are you really okay with letting your kids go to what you consider a sub-optimal school? Have you discussed that with them?

And what is it about your kids' school makes it not as good as Northview or Walton? Surely it's not the teachers or facilities -- I'd think you and the other parents would be all over the school board if that were the case.

Is it just that your kids' school has crummier students? Kids who can't make the grade, who are lazier or maybe just plain dumber? Parents who are too uneducated or unmotivated to bring their younguns up to par?

Are we really ready to accept as fact that test scores prove such things to be true?


While I understand that some of what I said in my earlier post was anecdotal, that doesn't make it less accurate. In many situations, anecdotal truth is far superior to statistics. Was that runner out at second? We don't say, "According to my statistics runners over 27.6 years of age fail to successfully steal second base more often than younger athletes."

I have run some small businesses in my day and hired and fired a good many people. Though I'm no personnel expert, I can tell you that the average test scores at the places they attended elementary and high school had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Think about your own experience. Are you willing to stipulate that the people who scored higher on standardized tests are just flat out smarter and more able than you are? What if they didn't actually score any higher than you but they went to a school that had higher average scores than yours? Have they still got you beat?

I could go on but here's the point. We need to change the way we decide what is a "good" school and "not good" school. Sure, there are some objective criteria we can look at. Nobody wants a school that is crime ridden, or that has no heat, or where the teachers don't give a damn about the students.

But surely -- SURELY -- there is far more to the analysis than simply comparing average scores on some standardized tests. Surely it comes down to far more than a few points of alleged difference. Everything in our life experiences tells us that is not the measure of success. Or achievement. Or finding happiness, meaning and productivity.

Consider the case of this young man. An illegal immigrant from Mexico who spoke no English. Living in a broken down camper, working as a welder's helper. 15 years later he becomes the chief of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins and is renowned for his research on brain cancer.

Do you think the average test scores where he went to school had anything to do with it?




Hopkins Medicine Magazine - The Alfredo Story

Last edited by arjay57; 09-10-2012 at 07:53 PM..
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:12 PM
 
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Are you really okay with letting your kids go to what you consider a sub-optimal school? Have you discussed that with them?
I never said the school I am districted for is something I would consider sub-optimal. I would consider it very well above average. But it isn't the best.

I should say that I am not a parent. I have no children, at least not yet. The only reason I know about local schools is because I care about property value and I care about the community. I watch the local school report cards very carefully because I think they are really good indicators of the community at large. If you start to see test scores really going down, larger than usual demographic shifts, free lunch spikes, etc., then you know it's time to figure out what is happening. It might be time to start thinking about selling and moving if the trend seems irreversible.

Regarding your question, I think that I would look at a lot of features of a school to send my child to. For example, I love Peachtree Ridge because it has a great robotics program. It might not be ranked as high as Northview, but it has a little something extra that students might not get exposed to at other schools. That's not to say that test scores aren't very important. I would only consider schools that have very good test scores, but little differences like that can help balance out minor fluctuations. It may be worth it to go to a school that is ranked 12th in the state versus 3rd if that school has an award winning band and your child is really into music....but even that wouldn't make it worth going to a school ranked 123rd. It's a delicate balance, but I think test scores are sort of a minimal requirement, then you can drill down to a macro level once everything you are considering meets at least your basic test score requirements. At least, that's the way I see it.

Of course, if you have a child that has special needs, is gifted in the arts and needs a special peforming arts school, or some circumstance like that, test scores kind of go out the window. I'm talking for typical kids.

Quote:
And what is it about your kids' school makes it not as good as Northview or Walton? Surely it's not the teachers or facilities
I still think a lot of it does have to do with the teachers at the school. Also the administration and how the school is run. Those are things that are difficult for me to know about at individual schols since I do not have children actually attending.

Quote:
Is it just that your kids' school has crummier students? Kids who can't make the grade, who are lazier or maybe just plain dumber? Parents who are too uneducated or unmotivated to bring their younguns up to par?
I would say the last thing, definitely. I would never argue that parents are not infinitely more important than teachers. Educated and motivated parents are extremely important. It's hard for us to control as a community, so all we can really do is concentrate on teachers and how the school is run. But yes, I would definitely agree that even if you have the world's best teachers, many the students will struggle if they all come from homes where they are not encouraged by their parents.

Quote:
Are we really ready to accept as fact that test scores prove such things to be true?
Prove? No. But they are the most reliable concrete metric that we have.

Quote:
Though I'm no personnel expert, I can tell you that the average test scores at the places they attended elementary and high school had absolutely nothing to do with it.
Maybe not on a specific level, but I bet the test scores indicated where they went to college, how they learned, and what experiences they got. Test scores may not be 100% reliable, but are we ready to say that they do not matter at all? Of course everybody is a full picture, that's why colleges look at transcripts, essays, and extra curricular activities in addition to test scores. They corroborate the big picture more than they specifically tell it.

Quote:
Are you willing to stipulate that the people who scored higher on standardized tests are just flat out smarter and more able than you are?
Yes. Yes I am. Maybe not on a 100% level, but more often than not, I would say that someone who scored considerably higher than I did on SATs is just flat out smarter than I am. I could have prepared better for my SAT, I could have taken a class for it, but no matter what I did, I wasn't going to score above 1500. I'm not that smart. I'm sure there are some morons that scored higher than I did, but they are outliers. The people who scored higher than I did in a statistically meaningful way....yeah, they are probably just flat out smarter.

Quote:
What if they didn't actually score any higher than you but they went to a school that had higher average scores than yours? Have they still got you beat?
Now, that is a very interesting point. Obviously, the answer is no. But I don't think it's that simple. I think that if you go to a school that has higher average test scores, that means that you are more likely to score on the higher end of your test taking potential. It means you have more exposure to a culture of learning and education, and maybe you have access to teachers who are more skilled at teaching the skills that are asked for on the tests. It can't make you go beyond your potential, but it can help you live up to it.

Quote:
But surely -- SURELY -- there is far more to the analysis than simply comparing average scores on some standardized tests.
Of course there is more. That's why college admission boards ask for an application, not just for a submission of test scores. It's also why when all those list making magazines and organizations decide to rank schools, they look at more than just test scores. Even when all those different things are considered, though, the rankings seem to closely mimic the test score rankings. Coincidence? I never stated test scores are the only indicator, I'm just debating the point that they are a fairly reasonable indicator, possibly among many.

Quote:
Consider the case of this young man.
It's a great story. However, the reason it is a story at all is because of how unlikely it is. What you won't read are the stories of hundreds of other chiefs of neurosurgery that went to schools with good test scores. Why not? Because we expect them to achieve. More often than not, they do.
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Old 09-11-2012, 02:11 PM
 
Location: Mableton, GA USA (NW Atlanta suburb, 4 miles OTP)
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Originally Posted by ATLTJL View Post
That's a great sentiment, arjay.

Your post is very setimental. It's very politically correct. It's also very anecdotal.
When it comes to complex human experiences, such as the experience of a student in a public school (with its multiple classes, multiple teachers, and complex network of social interactions), anecdotal evidence is sometimes all we have.

You ask what would be a good metric?

How about measuring the performance and success of a series of "typical individuals" from a variety of social and demographic groups?

How well would a white middle-class kid with two parents and older siblings do? With older siblings? Both?

How about a white middle class kid with no siblings? With one parent? With one parent and a part-time job?

Etc.

That would remove a number of social and other "environmental" factors that seem to be highly variable in a given population mix, and which seem to influence the overall test scores of a given school.
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Old 09-11-2012, 02:40 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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Originally Posted by Buffaloismycity View Post
What is black migo gang. Im from Buffalo, but lived in Gwinnett for about 3 years from when i was 14-17. I attended Berkmar high school and my old friends told me how gang activity is becoming a problem. Just 8 years ago when I lived there it seemed like really nice place, what happened? I am from a well off family but know a lot about violent areas(the eastside of Buffalo which is way worse though I never lived there). It just surprises me how such a nice area is from what I hear having some gang activity(specifically berkmar and meadowcreek districts).
To answer the OP's question: Let me google that for you: black migo gang
I've seen these guys more in Kirkwood and Edgewood, but I wouldn't be surprised to find them in Gwinnett too.

There were gangs in Gwinnett when you lived there - you may have been sheltered enough not to know. I bought my first house in Norcross in 1995, and I had immigrant neighbors but no sign of gang activity. My neighborhood was safe enough for kids to play in the street unsupervised. When I moved 5 years later, I'd had my car stolen out of my driveway, and the police kept raiding the next neighborhood over because some of the homes had literally 40 people living in them. I still felt safe there, but crime and gang activity was on the rise. If I recall correctly, that year a couple of girls were shot in a park in Norcross by members of Vatos Locos and Sur 13.
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Old 09-11-2012, 04:49 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ATLTJL View Post
Maybe not on a specific level, but I bet the test scores indicated where they went to college, how they learned, and what experiences they got. Test scores may not be 100% reliable, but are we ready to say that they do not matter at all? Of course everybody is a full picture, that's why colleges look at transcripts, essays, and extra curricular activities in addition to test scores. They corroborate the big picture more than they specifically tell it.
You have some excellent points, ATLTJL.

Standardized test scores have some utility, but I am afraid too many people put way too much emphasis on them. You can see that in the threads where people in essence say, "I could never send my child to School X because the average test scores are not high enough!"

In my opinion, that isn't the best way to assess a school. Unfortunately, doing it that way winds up keeping kids out of schools where they might very well thrive, and it also tends to ensure that average test scores will stay low.
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