Stay in school, kids —– NONSENSE!

An article in the Tampa Bay Times, April 9, 2015, urges kids to stay in school. This seems like common sense advice, but what does it really mean? The author, Matt O’Brien of the Washington Post, makes the point that rocket scientists make more money than burger-flippers, and therefore kids should stay in school.

There is a basic flaw in his argument, however. As with many journalists and other “experts,” there is a complete denial of IQ, motivation, self-control, and other factors necessary to stay in school. What I think O’Brien means by staying in school is to work oneself into a graduate school program along with the other top 5% of students in the country. That ain’t easy, folks.

He then goes on to point out that wages for college grads have actually been falling. He says the top 1% all went to college but don’t make as much as they do because of it. There’s something more going on, he says. Yes, there is. What’s going on are the four legs of the elephant that show up in my research report, The Elephant in the Classroom. Concentration, self-control, IQ, and motivation are necessary but not sufficient to reach the top.

Certainly, kids should give their best effort in their academic studies. But the majority of students should not go to collegeCloisters and they will be happier and more secure by enrolling in career programs. We need to step up our career programs and cut out the nonsense about everyone going to college. Let’s get real, for a change.

Does “Elephant” school reform research support liberals or conservatives?

Vietnam Oceania 122When I initiated research which would culminate in the report, The Elephant in the Classroom, I didn’t worry about politics, but thought the best approach was to follow the research and see where it led.

But as I review the report now, I realize that both liberals and conservatives may use parts of these research data to support their own political views.  Here is a brief review of some of the major findings that could impact politics.

One is that IQ is a valid concept. While this idea may be tolerated by conservatives, it is probably opposed by most liberals. This is because conservatives seem more realistic about human limitations while liberals, bless them, want the best for everyone and like to believe all people have the same abilities and the same potential.

The conclusion from the data indicating that only about 30% of our students have the motivation and abilities to do real college work is probably opposed by both liberal and conservative politicians, regardless of what their own private thoughts might be.

The idea that some private charter schools do well because of the creaming process and selection factors is probably more in accord with the teachers’ unions and a more liberal outlook.

The conclusion that high-stakes academic testing is overdone and can even be harmful, again, is more consistent with a liberal outlook.

The research that shows that it is quite difficult for some families to support their children’s school efforts, and that all of the federal programs and all “The King’s Horses” aren’t going to change that much, may be be more in line with conservative thinking.

The fact that preschool programs and federal housing programs have not been successful is also in line with a more conservative political view.

The concept of parent trigger which transfers powers from education officials and teachers’ unions to parents is a more conservative concept which “The Elephant” does not support, unless and until a realistic view of the school in question is undertaken.

“The Elephant” doesn’t like teacher transfer, even though most teachers’ unions want to keep all teachers working.

The research showing that public magnet schools and other schools of excellence are doing well because of the selective creaming process is not too popular with the educational establishment.

The “Elephant” supports more money being spent on public schools if they will acknowledge individual differences and use much of this additional money to set up career education programs. Conservatives feel that additional funding has not helped in the past, but they may support an infusion of money if it leads to less crime and an enhanced workforce.

This is just a small sample of the findings and as you the reader can see, the research was not reviewed with a political position in mind.

For more information, go to my website, and check out Mack’s Journal, or purchase the report The Elephant in the Classroom at Amazon and elsewhere for $1.99.




Stop Bickering, Public School Critics, the Problem is Solved — Almost!

The enormous problem of America’s under performing schools is solved? You, the reader, are probably thinking that this historic solution, if it really exists, resulted from breakthroughs in technology. All those marvelous apps, whiteboards, and computers are turning the tide against defective schools. Nope, that’s not it.

How about school choice, vouchers and charter schools? Nope, that’s not it either.

Maybe some combination of preschool programs, high-stakes testing, virtual schools, parent trigger, or common core? Nope, nope, not even close.

Well then, what is it? Here’s the answer:  Because of the availability of alternative public school programs such as magnet schools and charters, along with parent access to private schools through vouchers and savings accounts, almost half the students in public school districts will no longer remain in neighborhood schools during middle school and high school. Parents who are vitally interested in their children’s educational future will get their kids into the many excellent public school opportunities and tuition-assisted private school programs.

Most of the other 50% of children who remain in neighborhood schools will have the opportunity to enter career studies leading to certifications that allow them to acquire high-paying and interesting jobs. A much smaller group of this remaining neighborhood student population, approximately

5% -10% will take rigorous college prep courses.

All of the heartaches and controversies over high-stakes testing will be put to bed, along with No Child Left Behind, Core Curriculum, and a myriad of other fix-ups from conservative and liberal reformers who continue to miss the boat. College prep kids coming from public schools of excellence will continue to take high-stakes achievement exams and follow a core curriculum, but the majority of public neighborhood school students, who will enroll in career studies, won’t take these state and federal tests. They will just take local tests on the academics needed for their certification areas.

Presto! Public school problems solved! The result: a 97% graduation rate, the elimination of breeding grounds for crime and drugs, higher academic standards for those attending college –– and an elite workforce. Sounds marvelous, doesn’t it? But can we accomplish this great reform? Certainly, many will object. Will we see it in our lifetime?

In my research report, The Elephant in the Classroom, I learned that the surprising answer is yes –– because it has already started. The State of Florida may be leading our country in this approach because almost half of Florida’s students are in schools of their choice (or their parents’ choices). Large numbers of the remaining students enter career programs. In fact, one county, Pinellas, plans to have 50% of all students in career studies by 2017. Hopefully, that will rise to a more realistic level of 60% – 70% in the future.

And what do we mean by career studies? Are we talking about leaving some kids behind? Are we talking about shop classes and industrial arts programs? No way. These are sophisticated career programs leading to valuable certifications. Some Florida high schools assign all freshmen to career studies with the exception of those who have the ability and motivation for college studies.

An example of the types of programs that will develop and flourish are found in classes in piloting, space flight and aeronautical science. “This high school started a ‘wall-to-wall’ academy concept last year in which all students take classes in career-themed areas such as business, science, technology, fine arts and hospitality. Students can earn industry certifications giving them a path directly to work.” Cara Fitzpatrick, “School Program Takes flight,” Tampa Bay Times, November 29, 2013. And students can earn a pilots license by the time they complete the program!

Grade retention will be a thing of the past. College-prep students will be prepared for advanced academic material, and students in career studies will not progress by grade level but rather through achievement of a series of individual certifications at their neighborhood school location, as well as county career centers and community college programs. This will lead to concrete productivity and certificates of accomplishment. Completion of several years of career education will lead to a high school diploma, and this diploma will carry a much greater weight in the world of work than the regular academic high school diploma.

There are other models being developed across Florida. One with promise takes only juniors and seniors, and incoming students must be 16 years of age or older. Students have most of their academic work out of the way and spend the last two years of high school earning certifications as well as high school and college credits.

If things are looking so good, why did I add almost? What more is needed?

Unfortunately, today’s students in career studies can’t just focus on functional academics tied to their career specialties. They still need to worry about comprehensive academics such as Spanish and chemistry, along with high-stakes testing. So we are close, very, very close, but we’re not completely there.

What legislators simply need to do is to continue establishing career academies and continue to recognize the differences between students who are motivated and capable of attending college –– and the vast majority of students who are better challenged through career studies.

 State legislators will continue to support high-stakes testing and common core for college prep students, but career students will receive rigorous evaluation based on their certifications and related academics; not state and federal academic tests that don’t relate to what they are doing.

CloistersUnfortunately, most states and most counties have not reached this level of sophistication and continue their political in-fighting. They are still tripped up by two great American myths: that all students should go to college and that all students are pretty much the same in ability and interests. The result is that all kids are left behind.