Sunday, April 9, 2017

CURMUDGUCATION: What the Public Sees + Soap Box Derby Equity

CURMUDGUCATION: What the Public Sees:

What the Public Sees

While reading my way around the web this weekend, I came across this "Topline Report" of the Phi Delta Kappa annual poll about education issues. I'm way late to sifting through this data, but it's an interesting report, so I'm going to do it anyway. It gathers together the data over the past several decades into some quick-and-dirty charts, and it makes for some interesting reading. The newest results aren't very new (May of 2016), but the trends over the years are illuminating.

Biggest Problems?

The survey allows for three open-ended responses to the question of the biggest problems in schools. In 2016, funding won with 19% which is down 13% from just two years ago. 2009-2014 funding stayed on top with over thirty percent voting for it.

Standards have rarely made the list at all, except for a period from 2004-2009 (No Child Left Behind days) when they hovered around 3%. They reappeared as a problem in 2015 at 7% and were way up to 9% last year.

The chart is also a reminder of some things we used to consider a big deal. 9% considered discipline a problem, but from 1969 until 2010, discipline was never out of double digits, and from 1969 till 1987, it never dropped below 20%. Why are we so much less concerned nowadays? Better behaved children or, as I suspect is the case in many of these answers, does the shift reflect a shift in what is reported by the press and amplified by whoever's trying to stir things up. Violence, drugs, and overcrowding were also seen as huge problems back in the day and now don't register so much. Race was a regular double-digit issue in the 70s but in 2016, it only stood at 2%-- the first time it cracked the list at all since 1996.

How Good Are Which Schools?

PDK gives us the classic question-- how good are schools. Specifically, how good are the nation's 
CURMUDGUCATION: What the Public Sees:

Soap Box Derby Equity

We have tied to explain the problems of equality and equity and opportunity dozens of ways. Here are two you've probably seen, many times:

I'm going to offer another metaphor today-- the soap box derby.

Let's imagine two racers approaching the starting line. Our two young divers are seated in similarly-built cars, made well enough for the race. The race down the hill begins at the starting line, but before they arrive at that line, anything goes.

Chris's car is carried to the starting line, and there Chris sits, waiting for the flag to be waved, at which point Chris will take off the break and let gravity move the car down the hill.

Meanwhile, Pat is lined up further in back of the starting line. Pat has family there, too, and when the flag waves, Pat's family will push Pat just as hard as they can.

A few seconds later, we see the two cars on the hill. The race has begun. Pat is out in front, going far faster than Chris. But when someone among the spectators complains that the race is not fair, the reply they hear is this:

"It's perfectly fair. Look-- they're in equal cars, on the same hill, each one steering and driving their car depending on nothing but their own skills, reflexes, talents and abilities. If Pat wins, that must be because Pat is a better driver, and Chris would be better off building a skill set and becoming a better driver than worrying about. Because right now, on that hill, they are perfectly equal."

We could make the metaphor more complicated, give Pat and Chris different vehicles to represent various obstacles Chris brings into the race. But here's the thing-- even if Chris has just as good a Soap Box Derby Equity



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